In 1985, Ken Grossi visited the Oberlin Archives for the first time.
He was a graduate student at Case Western University, conducting research on the famed Oberlin-Wellington rescue for his master’s degree in history and archival administration.
More than 20 years later, Grossi was appointed college archivist at Oberlin and now oversees all of the “Oberliniana” that he and so many other students have studied during the past half century.
Although the college was founded in 1833, the archives were not established until 1966. Previously, the college secretary had kept an institutional record, while Oberlin-related artifacts were kept in the library.
However, Grossi said there was always an understanding that the college had a history that was imperative to preserve.
“There was always a sense that people realized we needed to keep the history, and in fact the second year of our existence (1835), it was noted that one of our founders was assigned that task,” he says. “So from the very beginning, people realized that you need to keep the history.”
William Bigglestone was charged with the task of actually setting up the archives in 1966 — a project that included establishing a control over the collections, creating finding aids, setting up procedures for providing research and reference services for people, creating record management policies, working with donors and families who wanted to donate to the college, and microfilming collections.
His successor, Roland Baumann, took over in 1987 and was largely responsible for further expanding the collection, introducing high density compact shelving, establishing a website, and beginning to digitize parts of the collection.
Grossi took over in 2009, and while he is continuing to move the archives forward into the digital age, the 50th anniversary of the archives provides the distinct opportunity to reflect on all that’s come before.
To celebrate this milestone, an exhibit containing important and quirky artifacts from Oberlin’s history, hand-picked by staff and student interns, is on view in the Goodrich Room in Mudd Library. The display includes one of Grossi’s favorite photos — a majestic image of Oberlin’s third president, James Harris Fairchild, sitting on a horse.
“He may be the person who had the longest affiliation with the school,” said Grossi. “He was a student in the 1830s, then a faculty, president, and trustee — almost 68 years with the college.”
There will also be an open house with film screenings of archival footage from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8.
This article was created by Oberlin College communications staff and edited and republished by the News-Tribune with permission.
Oberlin Archives These historical photos are among the many kept in the Oberlin Archives. Many are on display now at Mudd Library, Oberlin College as part of a 50th anniversary celebration.