Preserving 175 Years of Excellence
Celebrating 175 years of history is a grand occasion that would never be possible without the work of those dedicated to preserving it. In light of Ask an Archivist Day, we sat down with Anna Grant, our very own university archivist and guardian of history. A Bishop’s alumna who studied English and History, Grant says she didn’t plan on becoming an archivist, “because it kind of chose me. Old things have always been very much of interest to me. I love antiques, I love old prints; anything that is vintage for me is so, so precious.”
The Old Library, which turns 110 this year, acts as Grant’s office and consultation room. The archives, which are held beneath the Library Learning Commons, are stocked with over 800 boxes of items. The individual items each box contains can range from handfuls to hundreds. However, there are a few standout pieces in the collection. A donkey head (“not a real one”, Grant quickly clarifies) used for a production of a Midsummer’s Night Dream in the sixties, a small Bishop’s encrusted button, and an old wooden croquet ball from when the library gardens were used as a playing field are just some of the curiosities to have come across Grant’s desk over the years. The oldest piece is part of the rare book collection, an incunabulum dating from 1475. The most important piece in the archives of course are the original minutes upon which Bishop’s was founded.
These curious items are part of what Grant loves about being an archivist; “the most interesting thing about my job- you never know what’s going to come in the door.” Becoming a detective in her own right, Grant not only researches for faculty and staff, but for alumni and their families. The joy of finding pieces of previously unknown family history proves to be another amazing part of being an archivist, as Grant expresses that, “they’re so happy and you’re so happy for them; it’s just a good feeling all around.”
With respect to the aforementioned Ask an Archivist Day, we asked Grant what question she wished to answer once and for all, “‘So Anna, tell us all about the ghost of McGreer Hall.’ I find that there’s less and less of that now, but it seems like all my life I’ve heard this. First of all, archives provide evidence, there’s no evidence that there’s a ghost in McGreer Hall!”