Tag Archives: archives and special collections

Reflections on Boiler Pride…

Editor’s Note: Writer Mary Sego is an archival assistant and processing specialist within Archives and Special Collections.

As a Purdue alum and thirty-one year Purdue employee, I always reflect upon Purdue as a new semester begins. I remember back as this Hoosier farm girl took her first steps onto a large campus with hopes and dreams waiting to be fulfilled. I followed in the footsteps of 4 older siblings, and 1 younger followed me. This meant 48 move-in trips for my parents and 16 continuous years of having at least one student on campus, sometimes two or three. I am now seeing the hopes and dreams being realized for the next generation, as now two younger relatives have chosen Purdue for their college educations.

Working in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center has been an incredible opportunity. I have had the honor and pleasure to have processed 123 collections, including the Neil A. Armstrong papers, along with nearly 700 faculty and alumni folders. I have seen alumni, researchers, faculty and staff, along with the general public come into the Archives, and beam with pride and fascination. I have gone through boxes of unprocessed collections packed by donors that love their alma mater, and only want the best for the generations of Boilermakers that follow in their footsteps. Many feel it is their obligation to give back to the University and their fellow Boilermakers, because they feel Purdue gave so much to them.

Mark Brown on STS-28, August 1989

Mark Brown on STS-28, August 1989



Many of the alumni astronauts have given their collections to Purdue, in hopes that those that follow can learn from the many, many treasures found in their collections.  Indeed, several have taken Purdue memorabilia into space with them, and shared their Purdue pride among the stars. They are truly loyal and dedicated alumni!


Orville Redenbacher, 1928 grad in his Purdue Band uniform

Orville Redenbacher, 1928 grad in his Purdue Band uniform


Other faculty, staff and alumni have also given their papers and collections to Purdue. The names Amelia Earhart, George Ade, John T. McCutcheon, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, and Orville Redenbacher are known to the world. Former Purdue presidents, and many other faculty, staff and alums also have their papers in Archives and Special Collections. Their contributions, and therefore their collections, are treated with equal care and respect as any other.



Ralph S. Johnson, circa 1935

Ralph S. Johnson, circa 1935


Some of the alumni and faculty may not be as well known, but are important none the less.  One such person is Ralph S. Johnson who worked his way through Purdue as a Memorial Union food service worker.  He graduated from Purdue in 1930 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering and went on to become the chief pilot for United Airlines in 1935. During the early years of WWII, he was responsible for developing and testing a myriad of programs aimed toward air safety. He was awarded a Purdue honorary Doctorate of Engineering in 2008.

Also found in the Purdue Archives are the papers of Charles A. Ellis, educator, structural engineer, and mathematician who joined the Purdue faculty in 1934. Ellis was an expert in bridge design, co-designing the Montreal Harbor Bridge and almost single-handedly designing the structure of the famed Golden Gate Bridge.

Pamphlet from the Purdue University School of Medicine collection

Pamphlet from the Purdue University School of Medicine collection

Few realize that the founder of Arnett Clinic in Lafayette, Dr. Arett C. Arnett, graduated from the Purdue University Medical School. In May, 1906, one hundred and twenty-two students received their diplomas from Purdue University and successfully passed the examination of the State Board of Medical Registration.

In the spring of 1907, Purdue graduated sixty-eight men and four women. In that class was Arett C. Arnett who helped establish a Lafayette clinic in 1922, later known as Arnett Clinic. One can find memorabilia from this class in the Purdue University School of Medicine collection.

Another collection, the John Y. D. Tse papers, comprise a compilation of ten poems and memoirs written by Tse as reflections upon forty years as a management professor, founder of the Krannert Graduate School of Business, entrepreneur, and benefactor to Purdue University. Within the volume are also photographs, reprints of letters written to Dr. Tse by colleagues, an address written by Tse for the 25th anniversary of the Krannert School of Management, and reprints of newspaper clippings and articles about and by Dr. Tse

Many wonderful scrapbooks have been donated to the Purdue Archives, all containing numerous personal items and anecdotes.  One example is the Simeon V. B. Miller scrapbook (1900-1906), which contains memorabilia from Simeon Van Buren Miller’s college career at Purdue University. Involved in the train wreck of 1903, Miller compiled numerous newspaper clippings from the wreck. Simeon Miller followed in the footsteps of his father and two brothers as a member of Phi Delta Theta, and therefore his scrapbook contains a concentration of ephemera from the fraternity.  He was president of the Class of 1905 during his sophomore year, and so the scrapbook also contains items from his tenure as class president. Other miscellaneous items, such as fee statements, dance cards, items from the athletic association and athletic events, score cards and fee statements, newspaper clippings on the tank scrap, and numerous other programs are also included. One can certainly learn a great deal about a person and Purdue from a single scrapbook!

This is just a small sampling of the items that can be found in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archive and Special Collections. We are here to help you and welcome a visit! You can learn more about Purdue and those that have walked the campus. Feel free to just stop by and say hello!

Our wish for you this semester is to reach for the stars, explore and enjoy your time at Purdue! We hope one day you will consider donating your papers to the Purdue Archives, and helping your fellow Boilermakers for generations to come!

Clipping from the Jerry L. Ross papers

Clipping from the Jerry L. Ross papers







Memoirs and Memories: Purdue University Archives and Special Collections


Welcome to the new blog for the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center.  We are pleased to launch this blog to increase awareness of the Archives and Special Collections, our unique collections, user-centered services, and exciting new initiatives.

The Archives and Special Collections at Purdue are closely connected to the University’s land grant mission and support the University’s overarching goals of learning, discovery, and engagement.  As a division of the Purdue Libraries, Archives and Special Collections contributes to the three main components of the Libraries strategic plan: learning, scholarly communication, and meeting global challenges.

We live in a time of great scrutiny over the costs of higher education and the need to demonstrate the value of all parts of a university in contributing towards its mission. Libraries, archives, and special collections are no different, although it can be challenging to put a monetary value on preservation of the cultural and historical record to advance research and learning. In this first blog post I’d like to provide a general overview of the ways the Archives and Special Collections division has aligned itself with the mission and goals of the Libraries.

ASC Entrance

Archives and Special Collections, located on the fourth floor of HSSE Library in Stewart Center.

Learning: Integration of Information Literacy

The faculty and staff who work in Archives and Special Collections actively contribute towards teaching and learning at Purdue. We collaborate with faculty in instructing students on how to conduct research using primary sources such as archives, manuscripts, and rare books. The archives reading room functions as an active laboratory space where students benefit from hands-on practice conducting research in a real-world research environment. Students who interact with our collections to analyze primary sources not only improve their problem-solving and critical thinking skills, they often make exciting discoveries that spark their research interests.

Each year, we host a growing number of students whose classes visit Archives and Special Collections, utilize the collections for class assignments and research papers, and, increasingly, publish their work in journals such as JPUR, the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research. Our philosophy is that the archives and special collections exist to be used by students, faculty and staff, and the public, and we encourage students to come back and pursue their own independent research projects outside of class. Amazingly, many of them do. Several of the students who have used the Archives and Special Collections holdings in their assignments have been so inspired by working with original primary sources that they have made the decision to pursue graduate degrees in library and information science, archival science, or museum studies.

Scholarly Communication: Increase Access To and Use of Scholarly Resources

As part of the Libraries strategic goal of scholarly communication, Archives and Special Collections increases access to and use of unique and distinctive collections. We actively acquire manuscripts and personal papers, university archives, and rare books that support teaching and research. The collections are built strategically, in alignment with Purdue’s disciplinary strengths and land grant mission. As such, the Archives and Special Collections has identified several areas of focus for the collections: the history of flight and space exploration; the history of women in Indiana and/or affiliated with Purdue; the history of psychoactive substances research; and Purdue University history. We are committed to making all of our collections as easy to locate and use as possible, and we do this in a variety of ways. First of all, when we acquire a collection we create an online accession record for it immediately, to allow researchers to find it as soon as possible. Secondly, we process the collection, taking steps to preserve items in the collection, arrange them, and create a finding aid or guide to the collection that enables researchers to see what is contained in the collection and if it is relevant to their research. The finding aid goes into our collections database, available online freely for anyone to find. Additionally, catalog records are created and contributed to WorldCat and the Libraries online catalog, to ensure a variety of routes for students and scholars to discover the collections.

Primary Sources

Archives and Speical Collections holds numerous primary and secondary sources.

In addition to these traditional accessioning and processing steps, the collections are regularly brought to students and used in class assignments. Collections are rotated for exhibits, allowing visitors to benefit from viewing displays of these rare materials. Finally, collections are increasingly being digitized, as resources allow, to provide researchers worldwide the opportunity to use the unique special collections at Purdue to meet their research, teaching, or personal needs. This enables scholars to access our collections regardless of geographic location and without the constraints of time and expense of traveling to use the collections. We have created several online exhibits, experimented with crowd sourcing the identification of photographs, and enabled users to add keywords and tags to scanned items in e-Archives, our digital library. We are committed to free and open access to our collections, and to prioritizing digitization efforts to meet the areas of highest research demand.

Increasingly, we are finding ways to publish materials in Archives and Special Collections to expose the collections to a wider audience. In collaboration with the Purdue University Press, we have worked to have materials in the collections used more frequently in the Press’s publications, digitized and linked content to print and e-books published by the Press, and collaborated on creation of an app for the Spacewalker biography of Jerry Ross, that links to digitized videos, images, and related materials from Ross’s personal papers in the Archives and Special Collections.

Preservation of the cultural and historical record is a key aspect of the work we do in Archives and Special Collections, and we take that role seriously, particularly as the majority of new manuscripts, archives, and images are created digitally today. These “born digital” items are inherently at risk due to the rapid obsolescence of software and file formats. Without active stewardship, many of today’s digital files will be unreadable to future generations. Some of the initiatives the Archives and Special Collections staff have undertaken to preserve important digital collections include creation of digital preservation policies and practices for working with born digital manuscript collections and university records; web archiving of critical university web sites, particularly the webpages of academic units that contain university publications, reports, minutes, and related content that needs to be accessible in the future; active membership and contribution of digital collections to MetaArchive; and data curation, with archivists as active partners in appraising and preserving data sets in PURR, the University’s research data repository.

I hope you enjoy our blog, and that you find something in our future posts that will spark your curiosity, engage your interests, and encourage you to interact with us and our collections. Please visit our website for more information.  If you have an idea for a future blog post, please feel free to contact us at spcoll@purdue.edu.