Written by Donna Baker, University Archivist
In its long history, Middle Tennessee State University did not have one person specifically assigned to capture the institutional memory. There were self appointed curators around campus, staff who would save objects from the dumpster until they knew what to do with them. The library collected yearbooks, catalogs, theses and the student newspaper, but as important as those are in telling the MTSU story, they do not begin to cover the records that should be retained permanently. Other material with historical significance might not be retained by anyone, discarded in a need for more space or as the old made way for the new. It’s very common for employees to think that someone has already saved a copy and that they should just recycle or discard their copy. Even with current guidelines issued by the Tennessee Board of Regents for what to do with university records, it can be hard for a university employee to know to keep something of historical significance or who should take care of that document.
That’s where I come in, Donna Baker, “Keeper of the Good Stuff.” I remind people all the time that institutional memory is just as spotty as human memory, that it requires documents, photographs, memorabilia, and other pieces of evidence to tell the full story. It is my job to organize those materials related to university history that we have already saved as well as to go out and collect those materials with historical value. The response has been very positive and everyone is so supportive. I take my job seriously, but I do have a lot of fun meeting people and learning about what they do, even though we are talking about the dry subject of records management.
If anyone has any questions about University Archives, I would be happy to hear from you. I leave you with a taste of the many things we have in our collections, a flyer from our Theater papers for a play Out of the Frying Pan, performed by the Buchanan Players.