The archives: a preservation of Parkland’s history
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 17:10
The maintenance of important documents and artifacts is an important aspect of the preservation of the history of mankind. When historians and archaeologists look back on history, these are the primary pieces they search for in assembling the puzzle of the story of a people.
For Parkland College Archivist Jessica Lapinsky, her mission is the collection, categorization and preservation of important documents that tell the story of Parkland College through the work of faculty and students.
"In a way, archives help you get closer to the people and events that happened in the past," Lapinsky explained. "The better informed you are about the past, the better you will understand the events of the future."
Lapinsky began her journey to become an archivist with an undergraduate degree in English and a minor in medieval studies from Colgate University in New York.
What set her on the path to becoming an archivist was the realization that while doing research for papers using primary documents, she became more interested in handling and caring for the documents than actually writing the paper.
Once this realization had fully set in, Lapinsky pursued a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University at Albany. From there, she moved to Champaign-Urbana in order to obtain a Certificate of Event Studies from the University of Illinois in Preservation and Archives.
"I have lived in Urbana for two years now, and I really like the community," Lapinsky stated. "The opportunity to work with the students and faculty at Parkland was really exciting."
Prior to Lapinsky joining the staff, Parkland had been without an archivist for ten years. Members of the library staff performed the duties of an archivist due to the absence of one.
Lapinsky's role as the archivist consists of the physical care of records, organizing the records appropriately and describing and labeling the records so that researchers are able to find what they are looking for.
The types of records Lapinsky works with consist of minutes from the meetings of the Board of Directors, various works written by faculty members and documents submitted by various student organizations.
"Students can play a role in contributing records," Lapinsky explained. "Only having administrative records presents a lopsided history. Student organizations and groups can present records to be archived. This is important because we remember what we keep."
Lapinsky has encountered many challenges in preserving the archives in Parkland. Primarily, a large quantity of the materials available are no longer archival quality, they are aesthetic quality. This means they are damaged in some way and need to be switched out.
Due to the sheer amount of material in this condition, Lapinsky estimates it will take her through next spring to return the material to archival quality.
Furthermore, Lapinsky has encountered a challenge that archivists across the world are facing - preserving records that are created electronically.
Computer software and hardware change so rapidly that electronic documents quickly become inaccessible. For example, if a document on Microsoft Word is not updated every few years, the format for the program eventually changes, leaving older documents inaccessible.
Lapinsky explained that the shift from letters to email as the primary means of correspondence also presents a problem for archivists. Many of the emails people send back and forth are important documents. However, not many people archive their emails. Often these documents are lost forever.
Another challenge Lapinsky has encountered is simply getting the word out about the availability of the archives.
"The archives are here to be used," Lapinsky stated. "There is no sense in preserving things if they are not going to be used. If students have any records as part of an organization or group, please get in contact with me because it is important to preserve a wide range of aspects conceding Parkland College."
"We remember what we save," Lapinsky commended. "So, people should be proactive about participating in the archives. If, in another fifty years, they do another history of the school, people should think about what they want to be said about how they contributed to the school."
Students wishing to access the archives, obtain more information concerning the archives or submit documents can e-mail Lapisnky at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the archives located in the library, room 212.