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UW-River Falls archive center provides students, citizens with historical glimpse into area’s past

April 24, 2008

Deep in a corner of the lower level of the Chalmer Davee Library lies a place with no windows.  It’s a place on campus that houses some of the most interesting and amazing materials, yet many people on campus have never been there.  It’s the River Falls Area Research Center and University Archives, otherwise known as the UWRF ARC.

The UWRF ARC is composed of two different departments that work in conjunction with each other.  The University Archives is one entity of the UWRF ARC, the other is the River Falls Area Research Center.

The goal of the University Archives portion is, “to collect and preserve materials that document the history, development, traditions and activities of the University since its establishment in 1874,” according to the UWRF Area Research Center and University Archives Web site.

This includes copies of all issues of the Student Voice from when it began in 1916 to the present, photographs of buildings, events, groups, students and faculty from and on the UWRF campus and even an old Freddy the Falcon uniform, just to name a few, Alyson Jones, head of the UWRF ARC, said.

The River Falls Area Research Center portion of the UWRF ARC operates as a branch of the State Historical Society.  This unit contains a plethora of information from the four counties in the area: Burnett, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix.  This collection includes manuscripts, county archives, newspapers dating back to the 1800s, and other historical collections such as books.

The total collection size of the UWRF ARC spans 2,409 linear feet, according to the UWRF ARC usage statistics from 2006-2007.

Thanks to the relocation of Textbook Services, UWRF ARC will be getting a bigger space.

“We’re moving either late summer or in the fall into the old textbook services center,” Jones said.

Some interesting highlights from this collection include a rare book collection with books covered in animal skin dating back to the 1600s, a Ku Klux Klan robe for an adult and child and even citizenship papers from immigrants making Wisconsin their home.  Most of these materials have been donated by patrons who made the contribution to the UWRF ARC in order to preserve and record history.

“About half of our patrons are community members, which is unusual for a school department,” Jones said.

Jones said that the main reason people visit the UWRF ARC is for genealogical research.  The second reason patrons visit the archives is for scholarly research and the third is students working on class projects.

Another interesting characteristic of the UWRF ARC is that even though it only houses materials included in the four-county area, materials can be shipped to patrons for research via the statewide ARC network.  The network links the 14 different Area Research Centers in the state of Wisconsin and provides the capability for patrons to request information that may not be carried at the UWRF ARC, explained Jones.

“It’s a surprise every day,” said Danielle Hubing, a senior at UWRF majoring in history and art who has worked at the UWRF ARC for two and a half years. “You pull something out and you never know what you’re going to get.”