A never-ending story: The Mines history archive makes the school’s story come alive

by | Jan 6, 2020 | Looking Back, Winter 2020 | 0 comments

After nearly 150 years, countless students passing through campus and an ever-expanding footprint in Golden, Colorado, Mines sure has a lot of stories to tell. But keeping track of those stories—not to mention determining fact from legend—is quite the challenge. Fortunately, the Mines History Archive at the Arthur Lakes Library is on hand to record, preserve and share them all.

While Mines has kept track of the university’s history since the school was first founded, the official archive wasn’t established until 2015, when librarians saw the need for a repository dedicated to telling the stories of past students and campus life throughout the years.

“Stuff was shoved in the mining history archive,” said Lisa Dunn, the library’s archivist, speaking of random bits of student history that had been shared by former graduates and didn’t have an official place to be filed away. “But I was getting more and more questions about Mines history, and we really had enough to have our own archive.”

A space was carved out in the library to preserve artifacts, programs, yearbooks and other historical items from the school’s past to begin intentionally storing and recording Mines stories, and the archive has been slowly growing ever since, not only with physical artifacts but also a digital archive where people can view scanned photographs and documents.

And there’s certainly plenty of interest in the archive and sharing stories from alumni and others connected to the Mines community. This past fall, an event was added to the Homecoming lineup, inspired by the popular TV showAntiques Roadshow, where antiques owners could bring in items to be appraised by experts. While the Mines event didn’t offer appraisals, alumni could view items from the Mines history archive and hear from Dunn about how historical artifacts make the Mines story come alive. Alumni also had the opportunity to bring their own Mines memories— photographs, memorabilia, pamphlets—to reminisce and share the parts of Mines they knew as a student.

It’s those personal stories that Dunn said really tells the most about a particular time, and preserving the original sources of those stories and artifacts lends authenticity to an archive. “It’s not me making something up or writing an article where things can be left out or mistakes made,” Dunn said. “Almost every history leaves something out—it’s an editorial choice—and that’s why it’s good to have multiple histories, so you can get different viewpoints and see what was important to people.”

“Our history helps shape who we are,” Dunn said about the importance of historical archives. “In whatever way, it’s part of what made us who we are now.”

But when asked about the biggest challenges of the archive, Dunn said it’s the gaps in the archive’s knowledge. While there are a lot of great artifacts currently in the archive, most are from the early 1900s. Dunn said there’s not enough from beyond the 1930s for her to get a firm grasp on what life was like for students throughout the latter half of the 20th century. She would really like to know more about campus life, student organizations and department histories.

“I would love to have more alumni histories about their experiences here or their job histories,” Dunn said. “Things that just talk about what life was like and what people were concerned about.”

And accounts from students who graduated within the past few decades have been the hardest to get, because many people don’t see their experiences as old enough to be “historical” or of use to an archive. But Dunn said it’s all part of the Mines story and has to be preserved.

“People think they led an ordinary life,” Dunn said. “But when you look at it from a perspective of years, it was not ordinary.”

To donate materials to the Mines History Archive or learn more about a particular piece of Mines history, contact Lisa Dunn at 303-273-3687 or [email protected].

The Mines History Archive is home to a lot of interesting artifacts from throughout the school’s history. We asked archivist Lisa Dunn to share more details on a few of her favorite items.

Charles N. Bell ’06 scrapbook and Mines stadium blanket

The scrapbook and photo album collection in the Mines history archive were collected from Mines alumni and includes scenes from the Mines campus and student activities. Dunn said the items in this collection represent the views and interests of students during their time at Mines, making each a “slice of life” of the university at that time.

“Scrapbooks are the life that isn’t recorded anywhere else, and that’s why I love them,” Dunn said. “This is the students’ view of Mines— this is how they saw the school and themselves, which is really important. Scrapbooks bring their own context with them.”

The stadium blanket was used during football games in the 1930s and bears the appliques of an “M” and a leather football.

Photograph of the Mines baseball team

Baseball has been part of Mines history since the formation of the Jarvis Hall White Legs baseball team in the early 1870s. By 1887, the baseball team belonged to the State League, which included Jesuit College and Denver High School.

“Mines is not usually seen as a baseball school,” Dunn said. “But baseball was the school’s first foray into sports. It’s interesting to see that Mines believed in athletics and sports right from the start.”

Bishop George M. Randall communion chalice

This chalice originally belonged to Bishop George M. Randall, the missionary bishop of the Episcopal Church. Randall was the founder of the Jarvis Hall Collegiate School, the precursor to Mines located south of Golden in 1869. Every year, Mines lends this chalice to the Calvary Episcopal Church in Golden.

“What I like about the chalice is that the Episcopal Church asks to borrow it for one of their ceremonies every year, and it means a lot to them,” Dunn said. “It’s a shining example of what archives should do—they should have connection with the present.”

Senior Stetson

This senior Stetson belonged to Charles R. Ewing from the Class of 1900. The Stetson features signatures from Ewing’s classmates.

“Senior Stetsons were the hat,” Dunn said. “Only seniors were allowed to wear them. It’s a good contrast to the freshman cap, which was a scruffy miner’s cap with a tag and holder in the front.”