We once again participated in #AskAnArchivist Day, when archivists around the U.S. encourage the public to ask questions about archives and archivists. We received submissions through social media and filmed the answers on @ThetaHistory on TikTok, but I thought I would also share some responses here in a blog.
What types of records do you have for the Grand Rapids Alumnae Chapter?
The archives have a variety of sources that may contain information about a specific alumnae chapter. For example, there are references as early as 1927 about the alumnae club located in Grand Rapids in the Theta Magazine. We have annual history reports from the group in the 1990s and early 2000s. We also have their petition to become an alumnae chapter in 2006.
For other chapters, we may also have photographs. (I encourage alumnae groups to share pictures of their activities as they will end up in the archives!)
Outside of the Theta archives, I encourage alumnae groups to search old newspapers in your community. Your local library or historical society may have scanned the local newspaper which makes it easier to search for references to Theta and the work of the alumnae groups supporting their local communities. If you have a question about your alumnae group’s history, contact me.
What are our oldest badges and our most unique badges?
We are lucky to have two founders' badges in the collection: Bettie Tipton Lindsay’s and Hannah Fitch Shaw’s. We have a variety of badges from over the years. (Learn more about the Theta Badge in the Heritage area of the Theta website!) One of the most frequent questions I receive is, “What to do with my badge when I no longer need/want it?” We have a form that you can print, fill out, and keep with your badge and other Theta items to let your family know what to do with your badge.
What is the most unexpected item in the collection or the most interesting?
There are many interesting items in the archives. One of my favorites is a human hair braided watch fob with a Theta dangle. Hair jewelry was a popular activity from the 1850s through the 1920s. (I welcome donations of Theta materials for the archives as it helps me tell Theta’s story!)
What is the weirdest fact about Bettie Locke?
“Weird” is relative, right? She was the longest living founder, having passed away in 1939 and, as far as we can tell, was active in the organization until the end. My favorite “weird” fact about a founder is about Hannah Fitch Shaw. Hannah has a patent in the United States for an improved dishpan that she received in 1886. You can learn more in the Theta Magazine.
Philanthropy events in the past?
Theta has a rich tradition of service. The earliest service opportunities were in our communities with existing chapters. Theta also established ways to support fellow sisters in need, first with the Loan and Scholarship Fund and then through the Friendship Fund. World and local events have spurred action by Thetas. (Check out the Service mini exhibit on the Theta website!)
Bid Days of the past?
Theta’s archives contain photographs, publications, and artifacts related to recruitment and bid days throughout its history. You can read about it in the Theta Magazine or visit us in Indianapolis for a new exhibit about it.
Do you have resources on how to preserve your chapter’s history or your own personal archives?
Check out the guides available in the Heritage area of the Theta website. There are also links to U.S. Library of Congress and National Archives content about preservation of materials. I welcome questions about how to preserve chapter materials.
As always, you do not have to wait until October each year to ask the archivist! Ask me at any time!