Getting Acquainted with the Archives: A Student Worker’s Perspective

Hannah head shotAbout the author: Hannah Ting is a Wheaton College junior, majoring in anthropology and media communication. She has worked at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives since August 2017.

Two years ago, I didn’t know exactly what I was signing up for. As a freshman at Wheaton College, I stumbled upon the unique opportunity to become a student worker at the Archives. Naively conjuring ambiguous, exaggerated notions of what an archives was and what archivists did, I ventured into the following school year, eager to begin my adventure in the mysterious place on the fourth floor of the Billy Graham Center.

Lo and behold, I was greeted by a wonderful team of staff who showed me the ropes and introduced me to the space. Upon entering the secured storage room which houses most of the Archives’ materials, the scent of old papers and books welcomed my presence. I could sense the plethora of rich history lying in anticipation, waiting to be discovered by the researcher visiting from afar or the curious, locally-based student.

Hannah Refiling

Hannah refiles an unusually large amount of boxes in the Archives storage area.

Since then, thanks to such patrons who request access to archival materials, I have been kept busy with frequent paging and refiling! In my task of organizing various folders and boxes of documents, I have had the chance to see what topics people are researching about, which is fun especially when I am asked to fetch items for peers whom I recognize!

Gradually, I myself have been able to grow familiar with several collections through projects assigned to me. Throughout my time working at the Archives, I have enjoyed engaging in activities such as organizing accessions, transcribing oral history interviews, and digitizing obsolete reels and cassette tapes. One project I particularly enjoyed was the digitization of lantern slides featuring Christian cartoons illustrated by E. J. Pace (Collection 702).

11-01 Hannah scanning 16a

Behind the scenes in the Archives, Hannah uses special equipment to scan over 500 fragile lantern slides, dating back to the 1920s.

Sometimes I can’t help but pause in the middle of a job due to being enthralled by a particular image or text. The historical records I come across can be quite amusing and fascinating (as shown through the provocative messages of Pace’s illustrations)!

CN702 - 248

One of the  E. J. Pace lantern slides that Hannah digitized in 2018.

More significantly, however, I have come to appreciate the profound wisdom that can be found in the materials. The other day, I was moved to tears as I listened to and transcribed an oral history interview with Helen Ruth Belcher Elliot (Collection 116), in which she told her beautiful testimony of coming to know Christ as a young woman. It has been a humbling and encouraging experience to listen to voices of Christian men and women who have come before, as their stories of abounding faith, hope, and love remain ever-resonant today.

I have been blessed to be part of the Archives community, and I look forward to serving more visitors who come to the Manuscripts Reading Room!

12-02 Christmas party 12

The staff of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives at their annual Christmas party in December 2017.


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