Capitalism: the arbiter of history

History is in the making while Hamline’s archivist role has been terminated.

Anika Besst, Senior Reporter

Hamline has existed through depressions, wars, movements, pandemics and elections. And now, through a phase of uncertainty and changes institutionally, nationally and globally, Hamline has no formal archivist. 

In July, the role of the archivist was terminated due to financial cutbacks. Positioned in the basement of Bush Memorial Library, this office was responsible for preserving and collecting records and personal papers to share with the Hamline community and the public. This was a resource open to classes, students, faculty, staff, alum and community inquiries. 

The archival responsibilities have been reshifted within the university, with much of it going to other library staff. As stated on their website and in an animated email reply, “The archives is closed for the foreseeable future. Please contact University Librarian Terry Metz at 651-523-2160 for more information.” 

“Of course having an archivist or someone whose primary role it is to help think about [preservation] is much more ideal than not, especially if you are imagining Hamline will be here another 100 or 150 years. One would hope this is an aberration of economic circumstances,” said Metz, who also serves as the Chief Information Officer. 

Looking back at the university’s history, the current campus was not always Hamline and not where the school was founded. In 1854, Hamline held its first classes on the second floor of the general store in Red Wing, MN. Years later, the school moved to its current location to open in 1880. 

“When [people] walk across campus, they are walking across a historic landscape,” said Brian Hoffman, chair of the anthropology department and Director of the Center for Anthropological Services. “A lot of that history is still preserved in the ground. Older buildings are often preserved in the ground, and other aspects of that history are still there.”

One example includes the current Blue Garden. That was the site of the third-ever campus building, the Science Hall, which was also used as a military space for Hamline students participating in World War I efforts. 

Anthropology and archaeology classes have done several digs across campus throughout the years. One of which was at the Blue Garden where they found debris and artifacts. 

“It is fascinating to think that if you are in the Blue Garden you are essentially in the footprint of our third campus building, the [Science Hall],” Hoffman said. “When you are there, the building is still there [as are] remnants of the history of everybody who has studied there or worked there or lived there.” 

The anthropology class is doing a dig at the Peace Garden this semester where the presidential White House sat. Throughout nearly a hundred years of history, spanning events such as World Wars and the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, this house saw many community members and students.

“For one brief period, it was run by a [recent] Norweigan immigrant to the United States who was a widower and [the house] was one of the ways she was supporting herself and her children, [such as boarding] Hamline students there,” Hoffman said. “So there is also an immigrant story that connects a lot to the Hamline neighborhood today… I think it becomes a vehicle for us to talk about other aspects of the Hamline campus and Hamline neighborhood.” 

While classes and students can still participate in activities such as the digs and individual research, archival support is curbed due to the loss of that direct resource. 

Not only is the resource lost for academic and communal purposes, but the University is also currently in a comprehensive campaign. Metz describes this as a time of slightly “higher attention from a broader perspective” for the archives.   

The library is still interested and willing to help anyone in search of archival materials, though they may not be able to get back to individuals as quickly as in years past.

“We are always open to the types of questions you are asking now even though we don’t have a formal archivist. Don’t let that dissuade you from making inquiries or requests,” Metz said.