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An architectural sketch of Olin Library. The sketch is lovingly detailed with both existing campus trees and neighboring buildings.
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Exploring Faculty Papers in University Archives

Have you ever wondered what Washington University faculty do with their papers when they retire? Some donate their materials to the Washington University Archives.

One of six collecting areas in the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections at the Washington University Libraries, the University Archives has a specific mission to collect, preserve, organize, and provide access to unique materials documenting Washington University’s history in order to support research, teaching, and learning.

Inside the University Archives

Faculty papers are just one type of collection in the University Archives, which is comprised of more than 300 unique collections. Chronicling the history of Washington University from 1853 to today, the University Archives contains a wealth of primary sources and other historical materials that include paper documents and manuscripts, newspapers, photographic prints and negatives, books, films, videos, sound recordings, microfilm, architectural plans, artifacts, and digital assets.

University Archivist Sonya Rooney on the job at the Washington University Libraries. Photo by Joe Angeles/Washington University

University Archives has over 85 collections of faculty papers. We usually get collections from professors who have had long careers or done some founding research at the university. The acquisition of papers is done on a case-by-case basis. We have collections from various time periods and covering many subject areas. (We do not have medical faculty papers. Archives & Rare Books at the Becker Medical Library cares for those collections.)

Acquiring Faculty Papers

Sometimes I talk with faculty as they are preparing to retire, and we work together to pack their papers. In other cases, university staff or family members contact me after a professor has passed away. I then pack material in university offices and at professors’ homes.

I might get an entire collection all at one time or get material in several different batches. The collections vary in size from half a linear foot to over a hundred linear feet in one collection. We take both physical material and digital material.

What’s in the Collections

The materials vary, but collections can contain some or all of the following:

  • Teaching material: lecture notes, syllabi, examples of exams and assignments
  • Research material: research notes, copies of articles or books used in their research
  • Professional material: conference notes, lectures, correspondence, committee material
  • Personal material: correspondence, family material, their college course material,

                        photographs, and more

These important materials help us learn more about the specific professor while documenting the courses that were being taught at the university at a particular time in history. The materials also show how subjects have been taught differently over the years.

Some Faculty Collections

Sarah C.R. Elgin Papers: Professor Elgin’s interests include genetics and science education. She has taught biology at Washington University for over 40 years. Her collection includes teaching and research material, grant material, and information from her involvement in what is now the Institute for School Partnership at Washington University.

Steven C. Hause Papers: Professor Hause taught history at Washington University over the course of 54 years, from being a graduate teaching assistant in 1965 to being an emeritus professor in 2019. His collection consists primarily of his teaching material and research materials covering European economic and social history, modern France, nationalism, diplomatic history, Protestantism, and women’s rights. Also included are typescripts and other materials related to his publications.

Jack A. Kirkland Papers: Professor Kirkland helped cofound and chair Washington University’s Black Studies program in 1969-1970. A professor of social work for 50 years, Kirkland teaches about social and economic development and more. He has also been very active in civil rights. The collection documents the early Black Studies program and various aspects of Kirkland’s career.

Constantine Michaelides Papers: A professor emeritus in architecture, Michaelides taught at Washington University from 1960 to 1993 and served as dean of the School of Architecture for many years. His collection features his teaching and research material, as well as architectural drawings for some of his projects, including Washington University buildings: Bryan Hall, McMillan Hall, Jolley Hall, and Lopata Hall.

Joseph D. Murphy Papers: A prominent architect in St. Louis, Professor Murphy taught architecture at Washington University starting in 1935 and also served as dean of the School of Architecture. His projects in St. Louis include the Muny and the Climatron, and he was involved in the building of the Gateway Arch. He also designed John M. Olin Library here at Washington University. His collection includes his teaching material, biographical information, and material from some of his architectural projects. His family donated the collection.

Sketch of John M. Olin Library designed by architects Joseph D. Murphy and Eugene Mackey from the Washington University Architectural Plans collection.

A number of faculty paper collections are organized with inventories online. You can explore these materials online here. If you have faculty papers you’d like to contribute, or if you know of someone who does, please contact me at srooney@wustl.edu.