An Archivist's Wish List

Category: Heritage

Noraleen Duvall Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

This holiday season, some of us may have created a wish list. My personal list always includes yarn for knitting and books. Archivists also have wish lists, often comprising items that are referenced in other materials in the collections, and I am no exception. Don’t get me wrong, we already have lots of wonderful items that reflect the long history of Theta and its members, but the following items would add just a bit more to the story of Theta.

High on my wish list is vintage movie footage. The archive has little in the way of “old movies” of Theta, and so I am always interested when I find references to film. A December 1952 article in the Theta magazine mentions a short film about the 1952 Grand Convention shown at the Alpha Chi/Purdue house. I think we all would love to see this one! (Check out this short video of the train trip to and a few frames of the 1960 Grand Convention from Sue Laffan Thompson, Gamma Mu/Maryland.) Another wonderful addition to the collection would be "Kappa Alpha Theta Brings Speech to the Silent," a 22-minute film shown at the 1960 Grand Convention, about Theta’s connection to the Institute of Logopedics. College and alumnae chapters were able to borrow this film. Another film, made for new members at Delta/Illinois, documents chapter house life in 1968. Films like these help give an intimate, immediate sense of Theta life at the time they were made.

As we begin to prepare for the 150th anniversary in 2020, I am also looking back to how the Fraternity celebrated its other major anniversaries. For the Centennial in 1970, members could purchase blouses and hats made especially for the celebration. It would be wonderful to have those in the collection! I would also be interested in the tote bag made for Convention attendees. While I have tote bags from other Grand Conventions, I do not have the ones from the mid-1960s and early 1970s. Many of these were made by local alumnae.

I have referenced the Theta magazine as a source of information for several of the items listed above; among the items that were advertised in the magazine in the 1950s and 1960s are twin sweater sets, a matching shell and cardigan with Theta letters. I always imagine Thetas from that time, wearing these around campus. I would love to have a set for the collection.

My Theta wish list wraps up with an item that is surprisingly missing from the collection: a Theta kite … the kind that was flown. We have numerous images from the 1950s and 1960s that show members flying Theta kites, most likely made by the members themselves. Because these kites were created to be used just that once, the odds that one has survived to the present are small. It would be lovely to have a few of those kites in the collection.

As always, the archive welcomes donations of items reflecting the history of the Fraternity. Please contact the archive if you know of the items on the wish list or if you have questions about other possible donations to the archive.