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Retrospection: Looking back on the UHCL Archives
On Feb. 25, 1991, The Signal published an article on the opening of the UHCL Archives. Proposed in 1982 by President Thomas M. Stauffer, the archives began amassing, processing and archiving UHCL and NASA documents from 1989 to 1991. When it first opened, the archives contained dissertations of faculty members, as well as the numerous early building and instructional concepts outlined by Alfred R. Neumann, UHCL’s first chancellor.
Elizabeth Avendanio, a part-time archivist in 1991, said that the archives help develop tradition.
“A half century from now when someone will ask how something got started, that’s what the archives will do. Down the line these will have more meaning,” Avendanio said. “The image we want to convey is that we hold the raw material, corporate identity, of the university, not a stodgy office that’s molding.”
The early spirit of UHCL avoided little fiefdoms and strict disciplinary divisions. Neumann worked to foster an interdisciplinary community where cooperation and free-flow interactions between classrooms would inspire students and faculty, expanding beyond people’s dedicated interests and broadening thought and critical thinking. The archives were to be a collective memory of UHCL and its goals, accessible by the community for the community.
Neumann’s legacy inspired the archive to be an evolutionary project, one that would adapt to and shift with UHCL as the university grew and developed. Early archivists wanted to add a community history of NASA and Armand Bayou, as well as an oral history of the university through the voices of its faculty.
How have the archives done a quarter of a century later? These initial goals were met and continued to grow.
Lauren Meyers, director of the UHCL Archives, laid out the current state and future goals of the archives.
“We’re a relatively small shop but we handle a lot of volume,” Meyers said.
The UHCL Archives currently house four key collections: University Archives, consisting of faculty papers, departmental papers, faculty publications and papers related to all current and former UHCL presidents and chancellors; NASA archives consisting of the Human Spaceflight Collection; JSC History Collection, an extension of the National Archives; and a repository for the history of Clear Lake City.
In 2011 the archives took part in an expansion project, allowing them more room for processing and more office space. The staff has grown from one part-time archivist in 1991 to one full-time archivist, two part-time archivist assistants, and a volunteer staff of six from the NASA Alumni League.
Future goals for the archives include increasing space and staff. Meyers explained that as any collection grows, more room is needed to store collections safely. The archive currently has two temperature-controlled vaults that remain operational through power loss. However the archive would like to see more assistance and space to accommodate its growing collections.
This event marks a fitting start to a new ongoing series for The Signal: Retrospection. I’ll be looking through collections of stories The Signal published as well as utilizing the UHCL Archives to find interesting moments in UHCL history. From the opening of UHCL’s long lost videogame arcade to the introduction of the Student Services and Classroom Building, inaugural sports teams and unique guest speakers, UHCL’s history will be revisited and appreciated.
Also published on Medium.