Promoting Drexel Through its Archives

Mark A. Matienzo

American Institute of Physics

After agreeing to come to Drexel for an in-person interview for the position of University Archivist and Head of Digital Collections, John Wiggins, the chair of the search committee, reminded me that I would have to present as part of the interview day. However, I did not realize until I had received the schedule for my interview that the list of invitees would be as extensive as it is! I'd like to thank all of you coming for my presentation, and I believe the topic should be of interest to all of you.

The Topic

This is the topic as given to me by the search committee. It's an interesting question, and a bit complex to answer. Before we can begin to answer it, we must analyze it in detail and figure out the contexts in which we want to answer it. If we don't analyze the question, we could easily end up with a large set of discontiguous answers. As we will see, these contexts do not operate independently and are in general non-hierarchical; in fact, a given solution to the question posed by the topic may incorporate multiple aspects of a single context.

Identification of Contexts

The means by which I identified contexts to consider when answering this question are informed by the Guidelines for College and University Archives, published by the Society of American Archivists. The Guidelines state that a college or university archives serves as the institutional memory of the institution and plays an integral role in the management of the institution's information resources in all media and formats. In addition, I believe college and university archives must also document the culture of the institution as well as serving as the repository for the inactive administrative records and personal papers of faculty, staff, and alumni.

The Guidelines also describe the mission of university archives as contingent on the mission of the entire university. Drexel University's mission is "to serve its students and society through comprehensive, integrated academic offerings enhanced by technology, cooperative education and clinical practice in an urban setting." The SAA Guidelines also state that the mission of a university archives must also involve education through its activities, including its archival functions and support for curriculum and research. Accordingly, I believe the mission of the Drexel University Archives must involve service to students and society and should involve taking on an explicitly educational role. Like the broader Drexel University mission, the activities of the archives should be enhanced by technology. With a working definition and a sketch of what the mission of a university of archives should be, we can begin to identify contexts in which to answer the question.


There are a few contexts that are simple, and I also believe that they are fairly straightforward. The first is existence of a given practice. This is a simple either/or situation; either the practice exists, is underway, etc., or it's not. The second is necessity, either of a given practice to the operation of the archives itself, or on a larger scale, to Drexel libraries and the entire university. Unlike existence, the context of necessity is a continuum, ranging from a lack of necessity to mandated actions and policies that have significant impact.

In addition to the simple contexts, there are several contexts that are a bit more complicated. They can operate on a number of different levels simultaneously. They can also be reliant on each other. I've identified three particular contexts that are central to identifying ways in which to support the goal mentioned in the institution's strategic initiative. These are determining the focus within the DUA's resources, determining the forms of support for a given project or plan, and identification of a community to participate in that project or plan.

DUA Resources

The first context requires us to consider which types of the Drexel University Archives' resources are required for a given initiative or project. The word "resources" may be a misnomer, because in this case I'm not speaking about what one would usually think of as resources, such as funding, staff time, equipment, or supplies. Instead, to answer the posed question we can consider if the focus within the DUA is on the collections or the services the DUA provides. Often times it will be both, as in most cases the Archives' services support its collections. However, for a given example, we would need to determine if promoting, using, or expanding the the Archives' collections are going to be the focus. A good example of a case that relied on both the collections and services of the Archives would be archives staff providing bibliographic instruction on how to use the collections for a specific class.

Support Activities

The second context relates to the types of support activities the Drexel University Archives can provide for a given initiative. These activities are the explicit means by which the Archives can meet its mission as well as that of the university. The most basic of these activities are the core archival functions: acquisition and appraisal, arrangement and description, reference and access, preservation, and outreach. These activities are already underway at the DUA, as these functions are common to all archives, regardless of their size or institutional setting.

The other types of support activities often relate to at least one or more of the core archival functions. Given that we are concerned with a university archives, we must obviously focus on the types of educational support we can offer the university community. There are two main forms of educational support that the archives can support, and both of them complement each other and exemplify the previous context. The first uses the collections either to support the curriculum or research, while the other supports the educational mission of the university through the services of the archives. An example of the two working together could consist of a particular class requiring the use of the Archives' collections and the university archivist providing bibliographic instruction for the Archives.

The university archives can, and often must provide administrative support to the university. This is particularly true if the archives are responsible in part or in full for university records management. The university archives can also assist other administrative units with their responsibilities, such as providing the alumni relations offices with photographs for publications. In addition, the university archivist must also expect to provide advisory support to the institution's administrative units, libraries, and occassionially to academic departments. Finally, to begin certain initiatives and support activities we have discussed, and to ensure that they are sustainable, the archivist must network with the appropriate constituents within and outside the university.


The final context to consider is the community in which we want a particular solution to serve. Through examining the previous contexts we have already identified the communities within Drexel: the administration, the student body, the faculty, and alumni. Alumni are a special case as they are both an internal and external community. Beyond alumni, the other external contexts differ based upon geographic scope. One community to consider is the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Regionally, how do we want to meet the challenge posed by the strategic initiative? We must also consider how we want to do the same beyond Philadelphia, both nationally and internationally.

Potential Actions

Local consortia and organizations

DUA Resources and Drexel's curriculum

New user and donor communities

Drexel-wide digital collections policy

For example, Westphal College of Media Arts

Lead archives in technology

There are several ways within which the Drexel University Archives can embrace technology and become a leader within the field. Given Drexel's history

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