Monmouth College’s Archivist Impacts Monmouth Community

Monmouth, Ill.- All members of the Monmouth community are welcome to look at and use the Monmouth College Archive’s materials. “Archives seem inaccessible because they are behind a locked door,” said Lynn Daw, archives librarian at the Hewes Library. “By making them accessible in our catalog and getting the word out that I am here to help, brings people in. Generally, when anybody asks to use the archive, they fill out a request, and then I pull the collection for them. I typically have a conversation with them on what they are trying to research to try to help guide them and that goes beyond the college campus.”

Since 1997, Daw has worked at Hewes Library as a technical service librarian. She then came on as also the archives librarian when a former history professor left the program.

“The program was always here but it was a little chaotic. It hadn’t been well arranged or well organized,” said Daw. “We were able to use my library skills to then take all of these collections and actually put them in our library catalog. We then got an organization pattern going on and everything tidied and cleaned up. We rehoused the documents, and it became truly just easier to get your hands on and work with.”

Through the history department, students can take classes that intimately get them involved with the archives. “In our archive program, we do things to try to get future archivists out into the community, usually through an independent study,” said Daw. “I like to get a student out in the community to understand ultimately that’s what an archive is about. It’s not your stuff, you can’t try to hoard it or hide it, you are trying to get it out there so people can use it.” 

Once a student in Daw’s archives classes, Meghan Phelps took both her Introduction to Archives and Archives Practicum classes. “I immediately fell in love with the archives,” said Phelps, now library supervisor at Hewes Library. “Lynn taught us all the basics and laid down a very nice foundation about what was to come working with the collections. I worked with the photo album collection, and she taught me how to create a finding aid, how to restore the photographs, and really organize a collection.”

Daw has also dealt with some special situations within the community. Some were disasters, while some were opportunities that not only connected Daw to the community, but also gave her archives students experience in the field.

“The most challenging situation was the fire at the Monmouth Municipal Airport,” said Daw. “That one was really hard because we lost almost everything. I think it got people aware that although those archives were there, and they might have belonged to the Flying Club, it forced them to understand that they were also a part of an entire community.”

Daw was also involved in assisting the United Methodist Church with their archives based project. When the church tore down their sanctuary, they found a time capsule in the cornerstone. “It was kind of fun and a little surprise,” said Daw. “They opened up the time capsule, and it had materials that had gotten wet from the humidity. These things were well over a hundred years old, and it just so happened that we had students that could help.”

Phelps was one of the students, who was able to participate in working with these materials. “They reached out to Lynn and wanted to know if they could preserve this,” said Phelps. “It was mostly a bunch of old newspapers and coins, and since we were in her practicum course, she gave us the project to basically conserve these old newspapers. She showed us how to do it properly and correctly. How to clean and repair them the best that we could and eventually encapsulate them when we were finished.”

“We were able to take the items in and help the church by repairing the materials. Plus, help the students by teaching them how to do these types of repairs, which in return helped the community out,” said Daw.

Lynn Daw has brought the Monmouth community to the college through her work as an archivist. Her willingness to help the community through her archive skills greatly impacts the community. “I always try to be available to the Monmouth community,” said Daw. “I want them to know that I am not just here for the college community, but really to support the Monmouth community as a whole.”

Bailey Shimmin – Contributing Writer

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