#AskAnArchivist on October 1st

October is American Archives Month and the celebrations are kicking off with #AskAnArchivist Day! Lots of people are unfamiliar with archives, so we’re here today to answer any and all questions you might have. Below are the answers to some common questions about archives in general, and about what’s in the Bentley Archives. If you have more questions that you’d like answered by the Archivist you can comment here or send your question to one of the Bentley Library’s social media accounts using #AskAnArchivist ! Want to know what the oldest item in our collection is? Want to see pictures of your fellow students from a specific historic time period? Go ahead and ask!

What is an archive? What’s in the Bentley Archives?

There are lots of ways to describe archives but essentially they are repositories for items of historical value that relate to a common topic. The Bentley Archives preserves the historic records of (you guessed it) Bentley University! We have objects spanning almost 100 years which are collected to document the history of life and learning at Bentley. These items are preserved and organized so that people can use them for research – although archives material cannot be checked out like library books.

Can I use the collections in the Bentley Archives?

Yes! Our collections are still being organized, but you can take a look at our Archives LibGuide to see what we have. If you know what kind of historical items you’d like to see, or if you have an idea or project and are interested in using the Archives, please email archives@bentley.edu. We are always happy to help identify photos, documents, or objects that might be helpful in your work. You’ll need an appointment to view material in the Archives, so try to send in requests early and we can work with you to get history into your hands!

What are some fun facts about Bentley that you’ve learned in the Archives?

  • A lot of political power players have visited Bentley. Our commencement speakers include Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sec. of State John Kerry, as well as former MA Gov. Mitt Romney. In 1958, President (then Sen.) John F. Kennedy spoke at a Bentley alumni event!
  • We have always been a school of hard workers. In a pamphlet distributed to students around 1930, at least 20 hours of homework per week are recommended. The tuition was a bit different though. Tuition in 1929-30 was $235, and room & board could be had for about $10 a week!
  • There’s tons of great Bentley history in downtown Boston! Our campus used to be spread across many buildings, primarily in the Back Bay neighborhood. You can still visit many of these buildings on Tremont Street, Boylston Street, and Commonwealth Avenue. Don’t look for our old classrooms at 815 Boylston Street though – it’s now an Apple Store!
  • Find out more facts about Bentley history in our online exhibit – Bentley Through the Years.

I have a lot of papers, photos and mementos – how do I start preserving my own history?

It’s never too early to start your own personal archive! First, let us know if any of your material is related to Bentley. We might be a good place to donate material if, for example, you’re the head of a department or a student organization, you took pictures of a campus event, etc. If the material is of a more personal nature, here are some quick tips:

  • Put a date (at least the year) on everything! Date papers and photos lightly with a pencil. For digital files, see if the creation date is in the file properties, or add a date to the file name.
  • Create safe spaces for records. Get a filing cabinet or some acid-free boxes for your physical items, and get an external hard drive to store digital files.
  • Design an organizational scheme. Try to divide items into a few broad categories that make sense & are memorable to you. If possible, create folders for these categories both in digital & physical space. Then you can always sort new items easily instead of letting them pile up!

For more tips on personal archiving, including where to find help with digitizing and storing photographs or other media, see our Archives LibGuide.

If you still have questions about the Archives, send them to us here or on social media with #AskAnArchivist, or email archives@bentley.edu!