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Where we’ve been, where we are, where we are headed: How JCU is recording its history

February 7th, 2013

On the bottom floor of Grasselli Library and Breen Learning Center is a non-descript, closed-off, walled-in office space. But behind the door of the office lies stacks of photos, newspapers, documents and other artifacts that tell a story.

The story covers the 126-year history of John Carroll University.

The University Archives office contains a treasure chest of history within its walls. But those documents, pictures and other files are steadily making their way online.

Carroll Collected (collected.jcu.edu) was launched last spring as a Web repository for all things JCU. The collection includes over 1,100 papers to this point, including faculty works, University periodicals and student publications.

A sample of the works available online at this time include issues of The Ignatian, the pre-cursor to The Carroll News, from 1920-1924. Old commencement programs, photos from the 1930s campus construction in University Heights and football game programs from throughout the 20th century are also a part of the collection.

“These [archived files] have always been here,” said Samantha Schneider, the digital projects librarian at Grasselli. “Some of our Carroll News [issues] date back to the 1920s. So all of it has been here; most people didn’t know it was here, and you had to come here to look at it.”

But most of the items will now be online. Schneider has been uploading archive items onto the website using the massive scanner parked in the corner of her office.

“It’s really nice to have it up there, and especially now, because it’s searchable too,” she said.

Some of the items Schneider said they plan to add include items from the library’s special collections, submissions from Celebrations of Scholarship and graduate theses.

“I hope [Carroll Collected] is a resource for people at the University and anybody doing research,” she said.

Marian Morton, a professor emeritus of history at JCU, conducted plenty of research in the University Archives to complete a new book, titled “John Carroll University,” as part of Arcadia Publishing’s Campus History Series.

“[We have a] very impressive archives,” Morton said.

The book, which will be on sale starting Monday, was the brainchild of JCU President, the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J., in order to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the University.

Morton said the book came together in less than a year, which is a short amount of time to publish a book.

“I think it’s a good story. It’s a classic American story,” Morton said about JCU’s history. “[The University] was not an easy thing to build. There were problems all along the way.”

Plenty of factoids throughout JCU’s history stood out to Morton as she compiled information for the book. She said that she discovered through her research that even though JCU had not officially admitted women as students until 1968, they had attended classes from at least the 1920s on.

“Women had been here in the Evening School, the Saturday School, the Summer School and the Graduate School,” Morton said. “There have always been women here.”

Before JCU could move to University Heights, it had to finish construction of the original campus buildings. In 1932, however, construction stopped because of the Depression.

“They just ran out of money,” Morton explained of the halt on construction. “So the buildings sat here half-finished from January of 1932 until the fall of 1935, when they opened.”

Morton also thought it was interesting that so many famous Clevelanders attended JCU, including former Cleveland Mayor Anthony Celebrezze (a 1934 graduate) and Bishop Anthony Pilla (a 1961 graduate and member of the Graduate School class of 1967).

Morton was also interested to discover Sister Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U. was a member of the Graduate School class of 1974. Kazel was part of a Cleveland mission team to El Salvador and was murdered in 1980 by El Savador National Guardsmen. The killing of her and three other missionaries began investigations into the U.S. Army-operated School of the Americas, where the guardsmen had trained.

Both Schneider and Morton said that alumni are one part of the audience for whom their website and book are meant.

“People look at this stuff, and they want to find their names in them,” Schneider said. “It’s really interesting.”

Schneider also believes recording the history is a reflection of the University. “You can’t draw people in if you can’t give a reason why it’s a nice school to go to or a nice place to be,” she said. “Especially with faculty – you want to show people what your faculty have to offer, too.”