Keeping the Hamline archives alive


Leo Coughenour

The Hamline Archives have been without an official Archivist since 2020. Currently Professor Davu Seru is teaching a class about the importance and theories of archives.

Chloe Kucera, News Reporter

Deep in the Hamline’s Bush Library basement in a hallway by the boiler room lie the University’s archives. This space contains decades of history and important information pertaining to Hamline.

 Despite having the archives, Hamline does not have a formal archivist to oversee it at the moment. The position was eliminated in 2020 after budget cuts. However, actions are being taken to keep the archives alive.

Engish Professor Davu Seru is teaching an English class this semester called Studies in American Literature: Culture Production and Archives. Seru has taken time to teach the students about the importance and theories of archives.

“Archives emerge often for communities who are marginalized, at least, as a way to ward off erasure. But also to correct the historical record,” Seru said. “Some of the theorizing that we have engaged in makes a distinction between memory and history, and then wants to put those two into conversation with one another to see what is generated.”

Seru is offering an extra credit opportunity to his students to create an archival record of events happening at Hamline right now regarding the incident of a professor showing a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

“One of the things at the beginning of the term we talked about was…that Hamline is currently without an archivist and thought about our role,” Seru said. “This extra credit option is a way for us as we’re learning about archives and to start thinking about how what role we might take in documenting this so-called controversy…a lot of this has happened on the internet. A lot of this has been discursive. It’s been a conversation that people have been having locally, nationally, internationally. And that has generated a lot of noise. So, and one of the things about that noise that can be difficult, is trying to figure out what is actually happening.”

In this class, they have had visits from special guests who have archival experience including Amy Sheehan, Associate University Librarian at Hamline, who will be visiting later in the semester. 

“Normally, there would be an archivist that runs the archives because archivists have a different set of educational credentials than the librarians do,” Sheehan said. “Because we don’t have an archivist at the moment, I volunteer probably two, three hours a month in order to keep things afloat in the archives at the moment.”

When students have questions that pertain to the archives, they are still able to be answered.

“So the questions that students have…generally get routed first to the Central Service Desk,” Sheehan said. “Then when they turn out to be something that’s specifically archival related, that question gets tagged with an archive of notes. And then, either I or one of my colleagues, if they’re contributing to that topic, would step in to answer the question.”

After a few years of not having a formal archivist, there is still a possibility that there could be one in the future.

“There’s always hope that we could have an archivist,” Sheehan said. “I know the university has lots of demands for positions and so we are in the queue for that position as well as others. So we have hoped that again, and archivists will someday be able to provide a full service point for all the Hamline researchers.”