Behind the scenes of the otherwise quiet front of Mossey Library is a bustling atmosphere of transcribing, researching, scanning, and organizing as librarians and student employees sort through the mounds of memorabilia and documents that comprise the history of Hillsdale College.
Libarians say the flurry of activity has one goal: to make these documents accessible to students, alumni, and relatives of past students and faculty.
Public Service Librarian Linda Moore said the digitalization of school papers is important for people doing family research.
“We very often get requests from people who think they had ancestors here,” Moore said.
Much of the historical material comes from the Civil War era, from the letters of soldiers who served and died in the war, all preserved or given to the college.
“There is an emphasis on the Civil War material because we have letters of some 225 students who served in the Union armies,” Moore said.
These papers also include local post-war correspondences of wives, some diaries, and faculty correspondences with soldiers.
“The letters and diaries give a sense of the local,” junior Alex Meregaglia said. “These letters show not only the thoughts and minds of the people at the time and how different [the time] was, but also how similar.”
Students, like Meregaglia, often start as volunteers, but become student workers as they take on more projects and greater roles in the archiving process on campus.
In order to make the documents as accessible as possible, the archives include both the transcribed copies of the letters and documents for easy access, as well as digital scans of the original texts to allow as close an examination of the writings themselves as possible.
The archive is designed to do more than simply allow access to the documents.
“It’s developing a historical consciousness at a local level,” Meregaglia said.