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Lori Curtis is the new archivist at Mossey Library. | Lori Curtis

Lori Curtis, the first full-time archivist and special col­lec­tions librarian at Mossey Library, has seen many impressive his­torical doc­u­ments over the years.

As the official archivist for Hillsdale College, the idea of con­nection is central to Curtis. She strives to find the best way of archiving mate­rials by seeing every­thing she touches as a piece of a larger puzzle. Some insti­tu­tions cat­e­gorize mate­rials by mediums, but Curtis con­siders how dif­ferent doc­u­ments fit together.

“It’s like you’re a part of the lives of these indi­viduals,” Curtis said. “You develop the con­nec­tions between the mate­rials. It can be very emo­tional.”

Linda Moore, a former Mossey librarian who retired in January after 44 years at Hillsdale, said Curtis’ work is important for future gen­er­a­tions. People often ask about great-great grand­fa­thers who may have attended Hillsdale, or if their ancestors were donors.

“In 100 years, people are going to have ques­tions that we need to answer,” Moore said. “The only reason we know that Fred­erick Douglas visited Hillsdale College is because we have the minutes from the women’s lit­erary union. When you’re an insti­tution, someone’s got to keep that infor­mation going.”

Moore was pre­vi­ously in charge of archives, but also spent much of her time as a public ser­vices librarian. As the college’s col­lec­tions con­tinued to grow and Moore retired, Mossey Library Director Maurine McCourry asked the college admin­is­tration to hire a full-time archivist. 

McCourry said many important works, such as the per­sonal col­lec­tions of Sir Martin Gilbert and Harry Jaffa, were pre­vi­ously the respon­si­bility of the president’s office. Curtis now houses the col­lec­tions in the library.

McCourry said she appre­ciates the expe­rience Curtis brings to Mossey. 

“She knows how to manage infor­mation in a large insti­tution and can start to manage our insti­tution the way it should be. She brought ideas from other libraries and has expe­rience imple­menting new ideas, which is very valuable,” McCourry said.

After working at the Uni­versity of Tulsa in Oklahoma and Loma Linda Uni­versity in Southern Cal­i­fornia, Curtis was ready for a change when she heard about the job in Hillsdale.

Curtis imme­di­ately accepted the job when the phone call came.

“I knew that Linda had done amazing stuff with the time that she had. I would have the oppor­tunity to develop, create, and organize Hillsdale’s archives. It was a good oppor­tunity to put all my training and skills to a good cause,” Curtis said.

Curtis works with a wide variety of mediums — letters, photos, pam­phlets, maps, man­u­scripts, and more. She manages the current col­lec­tions owned by the college, and is also respon­sible for archiving any­thing by or about the college, from board minutes to official doc­u­ments.

The amount of mate­rials may seem daunting to some, but Curtis said she has always seen it as an oppor­tunity to learn.

“To be an archivist you have to be able and willing to learn about all the dif­ferent formats. Every­thing has dif­ferent require­ments of tem­per­ature, light, and humidity to keep it happy. I want to protect and pre­serve, but also make it acces­sible,” Curtis said.

Cur­rently, she uses a local storage ware­house to hold many of the college’s archival material, and said it is “packed to the rafters.” She also has items stored in her office in the library, and hopes for more space for archives.

Curtis said she hopes more people take advantage of the rich resources available in the archives department, whether it’s for a class or just out of curiosity.

“I don’t want to run a ware­house where things are put in and never seen again,” Curtis said. “It’s so stu­dents and scholars can have access to this material and learn from it. We want folks to use it, but we want to pre­serve it so the next person can too.”