News Item

Lander archives contain a wealth of historic information about the university and the community

April 26, 2016

Individuals who are interested in researching the origin and history of Lander University can find a nearly limitless source of information in the archives of the university’s Larry A. Jackson Library. Described as “the institution’s memory,” the archives contain a wide range of print and digital documents, even the sermons of the Rev. Samuel Lander, the Methodist clergyman who, in 1872, founded Williamston Female College, later to become the university named in his honor.

The material is housed in three rooms in the library: The Lander University Archives Reading Room; The Self Family Foundation Archives, with history, correspondence, memorabilia and other items related to the Foundation and the Self Family, founders of Greenwood Mills; and Rare Books and Special Collections with nearly 2,000 volumes. Lisa Wiecki, director of Library Services, refers to the Self donations and Rare Books and Special Collections as “the crown jewels” of the archives.

April Akins is the library’s archivist, having joined Lander’s library staff in the fall of 2014. With a master’s degree in information sciences from the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville, Akins interned as an archivist in the Virginia Room at the Roanoke Public Library, specializing in local history and genealogy. She also has training in archival processing, which was her first challenge at Lander. She began by wading through a vast accumulation of historical documents and other items in a library storeroom to find out what was there and to categorize the material.

The Lander University Archives Reading Room is the main source of university-related historical materials, including textbooks written by Lander faculty; student publications; university catalogs; student yearbooks dating back to 1923, and much more. Also displayed is the original bell from atop Laura Lander Hall and the academic gown belonging to Lander’s eighth president, the late E. Don Herd. It hangs on the back of the door into the reading room, just as it hung behind the door to his presidential office.

Akins said, “We have boxes and boxes of photos, 15 to 20, which are being organized according to category.” She said Lander interns and student workers are helping with that project, some of whom are interested in archiving as a career. “It creates a great experience for them,” she said. She also conducts classes for students to demonstrate how to use archives for research. “Students, especially new students, are amazed at the scope of historical information, which gives them a perspective on Lander’s history.”

Items are frequently added to the collection of memorabilia, and Akins and Wiecki encourage individuals to think of the Lander library when they have historical items to donate. Akins said, “We have limited space, and decisions on keeping documents are based on whether they have purpose and meaning for people.” But, she added, they welcome items to be brought in for evaluation. Wiecki and Akins judge whether the items should be added to Lander’s archives or transferred to other institutions.

The library also has the capability of restoring items that have fallen into disrepair over the years. And the archives are also climate-controlled to help preserve documents, and visitors soon notice the environment is unusually cool. Wiecki noted, “That’s why librarians wear cardigans.”

She and Akins emphasized that their goal is for students, faculty, staff and local residents to use Lander’s archives as a source of valuable information about the history of the university and the community.

More information about the archives, their content and access requirements is available on Lander’s library web site:

 Wiecki, Akins Archives-2 resize

Lander library services director Lisa Wiecki, left, and library archivist April Akins examine a file in the Lander University Archives Reading Room. In the foreground is the original bell from atop the historic Laura Lander Hall on campus.