Room of Secrets
December 3, 2012
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There is always a hidden secret that eventually comes out. MU’s secret is the collection of artifacts on campus, preserved by an archivist.
Archivist Jessica Reeder previously worked at Harvard Law School Library in the Special Collections Department.
“I wanted to be an archivist in general because i get to touch stuff that other people can’t touch, which is the fun part. I’m also a bit OCD so that works with my job,” said Reeder.
Reeder explained that her role allows her to be a generalist, which she would not be able to do with her degree in English. Reeder went on to obtain a master’s degree in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archival Management from Simmons College.
Reeder said what brought her to Misericordia was its strong sense of history.
“I really liked that the school had a strong sense of history and had a lot of interesting pieces in its collection,” said Reeder. “Especially with its connection with the Sisters of Mercy, you find things in this collection that you wouldn’t with other schools.”
Reeder has a hard time deciding what her favorite piece is or what item stands out most in the vast collection in the vault.
“The Alumni collection I find to be very interesting. We hold the charter for the school and old historical items, but the student perspective is a lot more interesting. You find a lot of weird things in there,” said Reeder. “We have beanbag frog with College Misericordia printed on it, books, and scrapbooks. I think it is interested to see what people hold onto past their college years.”
The vault is small, but it packed with everything from religious texts from the 1600s to public relations photos of the University’s presidents.
“The photograph collection is the core of the school, really. It holds all of the snapshots. It has all of the PR photos, photos of the president. It kind of shows everything,” said Reeder. “We have thousands of photographs. Last time i checked we had over 40,000. It spans from 1924 to the present.”
Reeder likes to have displays throughout campus rather than storing items behind lock and key.
“I do displays in the library and on the third floor of Mercy [Hall]. If people want to see things they can also come here. We also have a flickr site.”
She keeps the prices mum in case there are any treasure hunters who are looking to make a big score in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“We are not allowed to give prices of things in our collection. We are top secret about price because people might [steal things],” she said. “We have quite a few rare books. Our most rare items are our book collections from the 1600’s, they are primary religious texts. They are stored in the vault.”
Reeder allows students interested in history to help manage the pieces.
“Every year we have groups of public history students work on projects for the archives. They have primarily worked on the Center for Nursing History collection, which is a special collection we hold of photos for nursing history of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Putting stuff out for display keeps people interested,” said Reeder.
Reeder’s job does occasionally mean convincing members of the campus community to part with precious items.
“I try not to harass them too much. We have a lot of alumni collections. We do slide shows when there are alumni on campus,” said Reeder.
Reeder admits that sometimes she gets items that are not needed for the collection.
“We do occasionally get things which we are not sure of why they were put in,” said Reeder. The biggest thing we get is copies and copies of things because people think that we are an archive so we need copies and copies of things. People often want to give us large portraits. Sometimes it is portraits of themselves or something that hung in their office.”
Reeder said it won’t be long until she is calling current students and asking them to donate things to help preserve memories of their time at Misericordia.
“Don’t get rid of everything. Get rid of some things, but not everything,” said Reeder.
Those who are interested in the photographs can view the collection on http://www.flickr.com/photos/sistermarycarmelmcgariglearchives/