Preserving the Present

On the hushed second floor of Collins Memorial Library, surrounded by rows of shelves weighed down by boxes and folders that date back through decades, Adriana Flores ’13 is digging for clues that will help tell the story of a green beanie.

As Puget Sound’s archivist, Adriana manages the college’s archives and special collections, which include  everything from rare books and manuscripts to administrative records, student publications, and transcripts of presidents’ speeches. She also serves as a guide to the archives for students and staff and faculty members doing research. But her favorite part of the job is putting items like the beanie into context.

“Archival work is about learning stories of other people and finding ways to provide access to those stories,” she explains. “A lot of archival work is detective work. It’s this constant puzzle that you’re always trying to solve.”

In the case of the somewhat infamous green beanie, Adriana turned to digitized versions of The Trail  and learned that it was a hazing relic. From about 1918 to 1961, first-year students were forced to wear the beanies for their first semester or face punishments enforced by sophomores. In the 1930s, some first-years caught without a beanie were handcuffed to houses or trees. In the 1950s, their hair was dyed green. 

Discoveries like this keep the job interesting for Adriana, who says she is inquisitive by nature. Her love for archival work was fostered by her campus job at Collins Library while she was an English major. Back then, the college did not have a full-time archivist, and Adriana worried that the Puget Sound she knew would be forgotten.

“We have all these cool things from the ’50s, and that’s great, but I just kept thinking my time on campus wasn’t going to be remembered,” she says.

Throughout her tenure at the library, she saw the archives change. During her sophomore year, she spent her time digging through boxes and folders to find photos for promotional publications. The following year, the library received a grant to hire an archival consultant, who helped create structure, and in 2012, when Adriana was a senior, the library hired Katie Henningsen as the university’s first full-time archivist. With encouragement from Katie and library director Jane Carlin, things began to click for Adriana.

“I knew starting in high school that I wanted to be a librarian or an archivist,” she says. “Librarians help people, they organize things, they’re constantly learning and reading. Those are all things that I like.”

With Katie as a mentor, Adriana learned about the importance of diversifying archives and the somewhat contradictory concept of thinking not only about preserving the past but the present as well. She carried these ideas with her through graduate school at Boston’s Simmons College and an internship and job at Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center before coming back to Puget Sound in July 2017. Katie had accepted a job at Duke University, and encouraged Adriana to apply for the open position.

Less than one year into her work, Adriana has made it her mission not only to dig into the artifacts of the past but to ensure that current students’ voices will be preserved. She notes that the importance of diversifying archives is paramount, as Puget Sound is changing rapidly. In the five years since she graduated, the institution has hired a dean of diversity and inclusion, African American studies has become a major, and the gender studies program has become more inclusive as gender and queer studies.

Adriana hopes that this progress will be reflected in the archives. “I want to make sure that the history that we have is not one-sided, that there are multiple perspectives, and that the voices of the students, faculty, and staff are all represented,” she says. “We really want to make sure that student voices are captured and remembered.”

 

By Anneli Fogt
Published April 25, 2018
Photo by Ross Mulhausen