Archiving Penn’s Past

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Media Contact:Gina Bryan | | 215-898-8721March 29, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — It’s all there: 14, 000 cubic feet of paper records and 35,000 images, photographs, drawings and prints, tucked away in the University Archives and Records Center and telling stories of more than two-and-a-half centuries at the University of Pennsylvania.

Guardianship of that historical treasure has fallen for more than 20 years to Mark Frazier Lloyd.

As a trained historian, Lloyd says that he takes pride in “being responsible for collecting, preserving and granting access to documents, photographs and University files for research.” 

He joined the University Archives team in 1984, after managing the Germantown Historical Society in Philadelphia and overseeing six historic house museums for several years.

Lloyd believes the most remarkable item in the collection is the first minute book of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, which begins in 1749 and continues through 1768.  In partnership with the University Library, the original minute book can be accessed digitally and viewed page by page here.

There have been three important changes within the University Archives center since Lloyd joined the staff.  In 1986, the records center introduced a storage retrieval and delivery system for inactive University records.  Lloyd determines which records are historically significant to Penn and what can be destroyed. He estimates that 97-98 percent of all University records are eventually destroyed, with the rest retained permanently as historically significant records.

In 2009, the University Archives and Records Center relocated from Franklin Field to a facility at 3401 Market St. The amenities there comply with the national archival standard for temperature and climate control. Historical University records are stored within a separate climate-control system.

In hopes of highlighting all that the Center has to offer inquiring minds, the Center has joined the world of Twitter. Managed by historian and web master Alyssa Sheldon, the University Archives Twitter handle is  @PennArchives.

Although she is relatively new to the dozen team members at the Center and has only seen a fraction of what is stored, Sheldon says the most exciting item for her, as a photographer, is the Eadweard Muybridge photography collection.  With the chance to view original Muybridge prints, which were produced at the University, Sheldon is able to learn more about the research and publications of Muybridge’s work.

With abundant information that most Penn students do not even know exists within the archives and records stacks, Sheldon says, “It is fun to share the history of the University in an informal manner.”

She often searches through more than 7,000 images stored online in the digital image collection to share with the ever-growing Twitter-following base.