We recently chatted with SMU Libraries’ own Joan Gosnell, SMU Archivist. With the upcoming presentations of the Black History at SMU Student Oral History Projects, we wanted to ask Joan some questions about “The Archives.” Joan was a big part in helping Dr. Jill Kelly’s students find their way through the archives to complete their projects. 

Joan Gosnell, SMU Archivist

Joan Gosnell, SMU Archivist

Why do we have a university archives?
SMU began an official University Archives in 1967 because caring administrators wanted to preserve documents from our founding and early days. This was close to our 50th anniversary, which is typically when organizations realize that early materials might be lost.


Why is it worth hanging onto this stuff?
The SMU Archives has almost 500 different collections that document the history of Southern Methodist University, including: yearbooks, photographs, course catalogs, speeches, administrative files, films and videos. SMU administrators, SMU students, researchers and the news media often need accurate information–or photographs–about our past.

What do you do, and how does it help students?
Students have been known to use our materials when writing their papers. We often provide information to the “Daily Campus.” Just recently, we provided a fun fashion photo from the past for a recent issue of “Look” magazine. And, we’ve digitized the SMU Rotundas, early campus newspapers, photographs, and films to be accessible at any time from all over the world. We often host class sessions to show what materials we have and how to use them.

For the Black History at SMU Studnet Oral History Projects, what did you provide/what was your role?
SMU Archives, along with the Bridwell Library Archives, conducted student orientations with Dr. Jill Kelly’s class, using the materials that we have about black students and faculty, at SMU. Both archives have significant gaps in our records about black history at SMU, which is why we urged Dr. Kelly to focus on this topic. Having participants tell their stories will help give a better representation of all student groups.

Can archives go digital?
Archives have gone digital! We are collecting “born” digital materials–as well as digitizing older materials for students, faculty and staff. It will, however, be a long time before all of our materials are digitized. Sometimes touching the originals pulls you into the past.


Thank you, Joan! Visit the SMU Archives page or follow them on Twitter and Facebook for amazing blasts from the past.


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