History worth saving

With all the moves and changes in recent months, several county staff members have played an active part in saving Michigan State University Extension content information, and in doing so, filling in the blanks of our history from its beginning to the present. It’s important to chronicle and honor the traditions of our organization. With every period of change, there’s often wisdom to be found in the experiences of our predecessors. Whether we find those kernels of wisdom or not, we have a responsibility to preserve what records exist so that others can benefit from past experiences. Here are three examples of folks working hard to determine what to save and how to save it.

 In August, MSU Extension Allegan County downsized their office space. Betty Blase, District 7 coordinator, and Lynn Vecziedins, administrative assistant, contacted Cindy Straus, electronic information manager, to find out what they should do with the vast amount of information they faced with the downsize. A trip to their office revealed a well-organized and extensive array of bulletins, notebooks, programming materials and historical newspaper articles. These materials document how MSU Extension started in early 1917 when Allegan County’s first agricultural agent was hired. Included in their materials is a report from a summer intern who worked on food safety for support of the war work – that’s World War I. The materials included an extensive run of annual reports, many from the ’20s to the ’40s with photos of events. Allegan County staff members sorted the vast collection of files. Some files were sent to MSU Archives, and some will be scanned to be added to the MSU Extension historical bulletin collection.

 Soon after, MSU Extension Clare County also contacted Cindy about the same kind of downsizing, but they were facing loss of staff as well as space. Materials needed to be sorted so that what was kept provided support for the remaining staff. Michelle Neff, Extension educator, helped to sort and evaluate the materials, which included documents related to the tuberculosis work done in the early ’20s and ’30s and forestry work and research being done in conjunction with the district specialists in the ’50s and ’60s. It also included information on the PBB disaster in the ’70s in which cattle feed was contaminated with a fire retardant.

 Finally, Extension educator Mark Longstroth contacted Cindy with an extensive listing of historical fruit materials that supported research work started in southwestern Michigan. These files are now being sorted and scanned with many going to the MSU Archives, and some to the MSU Main Library collection, the MSUE historical bulletin collection or the Knowledge Repository.

 Bulletins uncovered in the three historical records projects include research reports written on the development of brome grass (1940s), energy management for dairy farms (1950s), small business development (1930s–60s), community zoning and management (1930s–80s), youth patterns for moving out of a county (1950s) and the list goes on.

 It is never too late to pass on files of newsletter series, program curriculum (written for and by MSU staff), audio, video, slide sets (all with complete materials), photos (dated and documented), and program support materials of any kind written by and for MSU staff and clientele. To see a list of MSUE bulletins that are already on file, go to http://web2.msue.msu.edu/Bulletins/Bulletin/PDF/Historical/finished_pubs/index.html.

 For more information on what you should be saving or sending to campus, contact Cindy Straus at strausc@msu.edu.

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