For her class Making History: 1968, Diane Lenertz ’15 visited the Grinnell College archives. She looked at some of the underground newspapers and other student publications from the late 1960s and early 1970s, and also some of the FBI documents about the College.
“I thought it was so cool,” Lenertz says. “I’m really interested in history, although I’m not a history major, and I really liked the archives and the thought that you could have a job where you could look into Grinnell’s past.” Lenertz has worked as a student assistant in the archives since fall 2012.
“It’s more than working with dusty, old stuff,” says Chris Jones, special collections librarian and archivist of the College.
The student assistants help locate information, scan materials, catalog new materials from donors, and correspond with researchers.
“One of the coolest parts of the job is that people constantly have different reference questions,” Lenertz says.
“Sometimes it’s people looking for information about a relative who went here and trying to figure out what classes they took and maybe get a picture,” Lenertz says. “We have a whole scrapbook collection that’s one of the best ways to look into the day in the life of a student.”
Lenertz recently came across photos from the 1950s of young women on the Mears and Main loggia roof. “All the girls who were engaged were throwing a party for all the girls who weren’t engaged.”
Looking at so many different bits and pieces of history about Grinnell College has also given Lenertz an appreciation of how the place has changed. “We’re only here for four years,” she says. “It’s interesting to learn what kind of an institution we’re a part of.”
Lenertz encourages students to use the archives because it’s a great way to get your hands on primary source materials. “I love the feeling of being with a document or picture that was there at the time,” she says.
Diane Lenertz ’15 is an economics major from Eagan, Minnesota.