Keeping history alive

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On August 5, 2020

Several authors have written history books about S&T, but no tome can contain all the information researched or preserve any physical items. 

Debra Griffith, archives librarian at S&T, says the university maintains a physical archive to preserve its history and to keep records of a variety of campus functions.  

“We continue to maintain the physical materials — the originals — because the digital world can be fragile despite our best efforts,” she says. 

Established in 1978 to house the university’s historical, legal and cultural records, the archives collects departmental, professional and alumni materials like photographs, campus artifacts and day-to-day records. The archives staff also works closely with faculty, staff, students and the public on research projects related to the university’s history. 

St. Pat’s buttons

Deciding what to keep

Many day-to-day documents, including bills and vacation requests, are shredded after their usefulness has passed, but the archives staff tries to keep most “first-time” documents, Griffith says. A receipt for the first hook-up of electricity or a telephone to the university would be kept, for example, if it could be found. Some items like chancellors’ correspondence, committee meeting minutes and organizational by-laws are kept permanently, but they can’t be used in research until a designated amount of time has passed. 

Rollamo yearbooks and Missouri Miner student newspapers are retained permanently, and are both available online through the university’s institutional repository, Scholar’s Mine. The yearbook collection is complete, and the digitization of the newspaper is ongoing. The archives keeps five physical copies of each yearbook in addition to digitizing them.

In search of

Some seemingly important items have been lost. Griffith says she would love to learn what happened to the Victory Bell, which was rung whenever Miners won sporting events.. 

Victory Bell, circa 1940

“The Victory Bell hung on the Rolla Building,” Griffith says. “It was donated by Joseph Campbell, a patron of the university, but was taken off the roof in the 1940s to prevent students from falling.” 

The Victory Bell, given to S&T in the late 1800s, was broken in the 1950s and seems to have mysteriously disappeared, Griffith says. A new bell, donated by the Frisco Railroad in the 1950s to replace the Victory Bell, remains in the Curtis Laws Wilson Library on campus.

On a slightly smaller scale, Griffith says the archives can always benefit from additional photo albums from 1915 through the 1960s.

Why do people collect?

Amy Belfi, assistant professor of psychology at S&T, believes she knows why people enjoy collecting and keeping their own “archive.”

Joe Miner figures, 1951

“I think for some collectors the ‘hunt’ is part of the fun,” she says. “But I would say when the collecting stops being a positive experience, then it’s probably gone too far.”

Belfi says that people may also create collections of things that remind them of specific events or periods in their lives, to display for aesthetic reasons, or even to wear, like St. Pat’s sweatshirts. Some collections provide happy memories of loved ones who have died.

Denise Baker, assistant professor of psychology at S&T, says people collect things because they think they might need those items one day. Others may collect simply for the feeling of achievement when they complete a collection. 

“Perhaps it reassures us that we did indeed live in the past, that we are not merely works of our own fiction,” Baker says.

Dear Miners of 2071 …

To help give Miners of the 22nd century — and archaeologists, historians and anthropologists — a glimpse of life way back in 2020, S&T officials are preparing a time capsule. It will be sealed in fall 2021 with instructions to be opened during S&T’s bicentennial.

So, what goes in the capsule, you ask? An iPhone, a St. Pat’s sweatshirt, campus photos, letters from students — the possibilities are nearly endless. Regardless of what the contents are, they’ll be safe from the elements. 

The water-tight, stainless steel capsule is 31 inches wide, 23 inches long and 11 inches deep. It has a foam gasket seal and can withstand temperature fluctuations from minus 40 degrees to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

The time capsule will be placed on campus at a location to be determined, to mark the close of the 150th celebration in fall 2021.

What do you think should be placed in the capsule? 

What do people of 2071 need to know about life at S&T today? Submit your suggestion at and check back throughout the year to see the final list.

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On August 5, 2020. Posted in 2020, Features, Summer 2020