Nebraska Archives bring history to life

Angela Kroeger, metadata coordinator at UNO, holding the typewriter of Daniel Jenkins, the first president of UNO (1908-1927), in front of the typewriter’s description in the Nebraska Archives Online.

Emily Myers

University of Nebraska campuses collaborated to create Nebraska Archives Online, making the history of Nebraska and the Nebraska University (NU) system more accessible for everyone.

“All campuses have unique and exciting research collections and it is really exciting to be able to share them,” said Amy Schindler, Director of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s (UNO) Criss Library.

The Archives at UNO consist of rare books, artifacts and collections. Some of the collections housed at UNO include personal and professional items from Chuck Hagel, former Nebraska senator and UNO alumni.

Schindler said the goal of Nebraska Archives Online is to make the research and special collections at each of the four campuses more accessible for anyone with research interests. All of the materials in the NU archives will make it “much easier to access the local expertise at each campus,” she said.

According to Lori Schwartz, UNO’s Hagel archivist, Nebraska Archives Online acts as a catalog for all of the archive items within the NU campuses. Links to audio, video, and image files can be found within Nebraska Archives Online, she said.

UNO used ArchivesSpace – the platform all four campuses now use – starting in 2014, when the University of Nebraska Consortium of Libraries (UNCL) first started considering a shared platform, Schindler said. UNCL seriously considered the idea of a collaborative archive catalog in 2017, she said, and started thinking about the logistics of the project.

Starting in January 2018, the Universities uploaded their archival information one by one, and the site went live in July. Shwartz said the project was done in no time compared to how long other universities and organizations have taken to undertake a project like this, but “when funding is available, you just go for it.”

Angela Kroeger, UNO’s Metadata Coordinator, said Chancellor Jeffrey Gold brought UNO and UNMC together, and then it was just a matter of getting the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) and the University of Nebraska Kearney (UNK) on board. Despite the fact that UNL’s online archives were much older and in a different format than UNO’s, Kroeger said the archieves “running just as smoothly now as [they were] when we were running ArchiveSpace on our own.”

Kroeger explains the Archives Online like this: there is one instance, which is the database as a whole and the repositories in which the four universities input their information into as subcategories. UNO has an extra repository from which their staff is constantly transferring information over to a public one.

Shindler and Schwartz also mentioned the desire to have a statewide system complete with archives from all of the Nebraska Universities, Libraries, and Historical Societies. “We hope that it won’t be just the University of Nebraska system, but the Nebraska system,” Kroeger said.

Schindler said she is hopeful for the future of the Archives Online. “This is a really exciting example of the collaboration we’ve been able to accomplish across the campuses, we are very excited for what is to come next, not only with the archives,” Schindler said.