Treasure hunting in the University Archives

Collection includes 150 boxes of ephemera, one of which holds the diploma refused by a student who disrupted the campus's first commencement ceremony

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Special Collections at the UC Santa Cruz includes the papers of botanist Jean Langenheim, the campus's first female scientist. Included are childhood sketches she made of flowers. (Photos by Carolyn Lagattuta)
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Special Collections staff includes, from left, Luisa Haddad, public services assistant; Beth Remak-Honnef, head of Special Collections and Archives; and Kate Dundon, archivist.
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The collection of Langenheim papers contains photographs, including one of the future botany professor in 1953 wielding a machete in Colombia.

If the 50th anniversary of UC Santa Cruz has made you curious about the history of this campus, you need look no further than McHenry Library to find a goldmine of historical artifacts.

Special Collections houses a treasure trove of photos, documents, audio recordings, oral histories, and much more. The University Archives, in particular, are overflowing with materials related to the history of UC Santa Cruz.

If you want to take a trip back in time, check out our original copy of the "Invitation to the University of California from Santa Cruz," a bound volume produced in the late 1950s by the Greater Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce. A classic puff piece, it sings the praises of the area, complete with color photos of the coastline and surf, highways, and the Cowell Ranch property itself.

I'm delighted that more than 7,000 photos related to campus history have gone online in the past 18 months—a small fraction of more than 200,000 slides and negatives in our holdings, but an impressive start.

Our dedicated staff, overseen by Elisabeth Remak-Honnef, head of Special Collections and Archives, is constantly chipping away at the challenge of processing our collections, making them available to the public and bringing them online. For them, it's truly a labor of love. They even hosted a tea-and-cookies get-together recently to enlist the help of retired staff and emeriti faculty in identifying people in more than 700 campus photos.

Archival staff have just finished processing the papers of botanist Jean Langenheim, the first woman scientist hired by UCSC. Personal archives like Langenheim's are filled with biographical treasures, as well as professional materials. In her case, the contents include a fragile scrapbook from her childhood with her own hand-drawn sketches of flowers—as well as black-and-white photos from 1953 of Langenheim wielding a machete during field research in Colombia.

Countless colorful stories are hidden away in the archives. Our campus history collection includes 150 boxes of ephemera, one of which holds the diploma refused by a student who disrupted the campus's first commencement ceremony. Other boxes hold the syllabus from the first class offered at UCSC, punch cards used by students in the 1970s to register for classes, and posters promoting plays, concerts, and performances on campus throughout the decades.

A real gem linked to the University Archives is the collection of oral histories we've produced. These collaborations capture priceless memories, stories, and perspectives—and whenever possible, audio recordings, as well. Under the direction of Senior Editor Irene Reti, recent additions to our collection include the oral histories of Oakes College Provost Herman Blake and Chancellor Emerita MRC Greenwood.

With so many materials to process, we're fortunate to be able to enlist the help of graduate students with subject-area expertise, who in turn get practical training outside their own fields. Next year, through the Center for Archival Research and Training (CART), our focus will be on the Lick Observatory archive and the papers of Professor Emeritus of Natural History Ken Norris.

If this has piqued your curiosity, I hope you'll stop by Special Collections and dip in. Not sure what you're after? All you have to do is come in and say, "I want to see something great." No doubt, you will.