UM-Flint history student preserves Flint’s past with Sloan Museum

There was no cooler place for Rachelle Gonzalez to have worked this summer than in the archives department at the Sloan Museum of Discovery.

In order to preserve the thousands of postcards, letters, photos, albums and other documents included in the museum’s collection, they are kept in an air-conditioned room between 67 and 68 degrees at 45% humidity.

That meant Gonzalez, a Flint history major at the University of Michigan-Flint, had to regroup — in the summer heat — before starting her work day.

In total, she spent about 100 hours leafing through pieces of Flint’s past and uncovering a treasure trove of important historical artifacts that could help future scholars learn more about the community.

These hidden gems include the women-led history project called Flint Research Club Scrapbook. There are five volumes of the album, with entries dating back to 1903 and 1973. The albums were donated to the archives by a woman named Lotta MacIntosh in 1977.

“You don’t usually see a lot of female-led projects when you’re working in the Flint Archive,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of the other contributions came from men, but to be able to work with this collection was amazing.”

Copies from the Flint Research Club, like the one pictured, are held in the archives of the Sloan Museum. (Photo credit: Madeline Campbell)

Gonzalez said another notable discovery was finding volumes of The Zimmerite, also known as Zimmerman Junior High School Scrapbook. The collection, donated before the school closed in the mid-1980s, includes composition diary entries, photos and oil pastel paintings of students who attended the school in the 1980s. 1930.

Rachel Gonzalez, a Flint history major at the University of Michigan-Flint, shows student artwork from the 1930s.
Rachel Gonzalez, a Flint history major at the University of Michigan-Flint, shows student artwork from the 1930s. (Photo credit: Madeline Campbell)

This discovery hit close to home for Gonzalez, as she is currently employed by Flint Community Schools.

“It was amazing to see what the school was holding on to,” she said.

In order to keep The Zimmerite and Flint Research Club Scrapbook volumes safe and organized, she placed them in acid-free cardboard boxes, otherwise known as Hollinger boxes. Hollinger boxes were created in the 1940s for the Library of Congress and the National Archives for the long-term preservation of photo or document collections.

Gonzalez got hands-on experience with the more than 35,000 historic photos that make up the Sloan Museum archive, but it required her to wear cloth or latex gloves to make sure she didn’t transfer oils from the skin over the images before sorting and placing them. in Hollinger boxes.

Revolving shelves housed in the archives add another layer of protection, as well as an interesting way to sort the collection itself. Gonzalez could quickly sort through rows of boxes and look at labels to gather the materials she needed with a simple turn of the crank.

“Using shelves is also one of my favorite things about working in archives,” she said.

The revolving shelves housed in the Sloan Museum Archives add another layer of protection, as well as an interesting way to sort the collection itself.
The revolving shelves housed in the Sloan Museum Archives add another layer of protection, as well as an interesting way to sort the collection itself. (Photo credit: Madeline Campbell)

She adds that the shelving, along with Hollinger boxes and the use of latex or cloth gloves, ensures that nothing gets lost or destroyed over time, which is vital for people looking to learn more. or conduct research on Flint and Genesee. The county’s past.

“Unless there was a huge disaster, like a fire, flood or tornado, it would be difficult to erase the history contained within the walls of the archives,” Gonzalez said.

While any member of the community can donate items to the museum’s archives, it’s best to call ahead and speak to the collections department to share what’s available for donation, Gonzalez said.

For more information about the archives, contact the Sloan Museum at (810) 237-3421 or [email protected].

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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