UL Lafayette celebrates 50-year archival anniversary
Archivists, faculty and staff celebrated the 50th anniversary of the University Archives and Acadiana Manuscripts Collection of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the library at 2 p.m. on Oct. 13.
Tara Laver, curator of manuscripts at Louisiana State University; Lee Miller, head of the Louisiana Research Collection and Mike Wade, Ph.D, history professor at Appalachian State University answered questions as panelists regarding the archives and manuscripts collection, discussed events from the past, what they’ve gained from the collection and where the collection is headed.
Rich in Acadiana history, the collection holds many records of Acadian families, photos, family papers and much more. It dates back to records of the university in 1900, according to UL Lafayette’s library website. It features literature, architecture, women’s history and other subjects pertinent to Acadian history and the history of surrounding areas as well.
“In my experience, with founding and growth of this archive, it’s not only made it possible for serious scholars to research here in Lafayette, but in my case it’s made it possible to have pretty nearly a research career based here,” said Wade.
Some paperwork included in the collections are from Richard Putman, who directed integration among Lafayette’s public schools in the 1970s; journal entries from UL Lafayette’s first president Edwin Stephens, Ph.D.; and copied letters to students and faculty serving in the military in World War II from UL Lafayette’s third president, Joel L. Fletcher Jr., Ph.D., according to UL Lafayette’s website. The well-known Ambassador Caffery Parkway in Lafayette is named after Ambassador Jefferson Caffery, who is also a part of the collection.
“At Tulane, it’s very important to us we put the guide to holdings online in a format that’s searchable in Google and Bing,” Miller said. “The importance of that is that it allows researchers to find out if we have enough to make it worth the trip to Tulane and so researchers can use that to then go to funding agencies, to go to grant agencies.”
Laver agreed with Miller, saying being able to search for collections online is a useful development for researchers. When scholars did research in the past, they had to send out multiple letters regarding what they were looking to research and wait for a letter back in response, according to Laver.
“It’s a good way to get the next generation interested in these kinds of documents, and to put things out there in a way where they can access them at home,” said Laver.
Both Miller and Laver agreed although access to collections will be available online, archival material will never be completely online. Miller said it’s not the same as having hands-on access to records from the past.
“Archives are simply not going to go online,” Miller said. “You may be able to use a library from your computer someday, but you’re always going to have to come back to the archives in person. And I think that’s a good thing. It’s different holding a 1688 letter, it’s different having students coming in and saying ‘gosh, are you going to let me touch that?’ So it’s a different experience, it’s a good experience—the act of using an archive teaches people something.”
To access the archives, visit UL Lafayette’s library catalog, go to the Reading Room on the third floor of the university’s library, or go to the library’s website.