Collection conscious

Jane Wildermuth sees more online content, community outreach as the new head of Special Collections and Archives

Jane Wildermuth is leading the merged departments of Special Collections and Archives and Digital Initiatives and Repository Services.

More online content, more community outreach and continued emphasis on the Wright brothers and aviation history while also highlighting materials that chronicle the Miami Valley, politics, religion and other history.

This is the vision Jane Wildermuth has for Special Collections and Archives in the Wright State University Libraries.

Wildermuth, who was named head of Special Collections and Archives on July 1, said the Archives does a wonderful job collecting a wide breadth of materials documenting the history of the Miami Valley, aviation and Wright State.

“A person can find materials on the Civil War, ballooning, women’s rights, unions, music and more,” she said. “It gives people a look at how the residents and workers in the Miami Valley were affected by the happenings of the day, how they were involved, how they reacted, how they interacted.”

The historical materials are made available through the work of the archivists, who seek out new collections, process them and create finding aids detailing the contents. The collections, along with behind-the-scenes tours of the Archives, bring history alive for researchers, community groups and local schoolchildren.

Wildermuth has worked at the University Libraries for 21 years. Her first seven years were as an archivist in Special Collections and Archives, providing reference and outreach services, teaching classes in the Public History program and processing collections.

In 2006, she created and became the department head of the Digital Initiatives and Repository Services Department, responsible for maintaining CORE Scholar, the Libraries’ institutional repository, including collecting, preserving, and disseminating digital materials, and digitizing historical collections.

In her new role, Wildermuth will combine her experience in both areas as the talented staff and outstanding services of Special Collections and Archives and Digital Initiatives and Repository Services merge under her leadership.

Wildermuth said the merger will allow for growth and expansion of digital projects. Her vision is to make the two units operate seamlessly and provide access to more materials to patrons remotely.

“Many photos, diaries and oral histories are already available in our institutional repository CORE Scholar, but we can provide more content online,” she said. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people are able to travel to use our materials. Making these materials available to a worldwide audience will further highlight our collections and help promote Wright State.”

Wildermuth would also like to see more interactive digital exhibitions online, in the library and in outreach activities.

“We currently display finely curated exhibits in the library, but viewership is limited. We can post these materials in their entirety online with additional interpretation and background information,” she said. “We need to use these physical exhibits as a teaser, not the end game.”

In 2019 Wildermuth was honored for distinguished service by the Academic Library Association of Ohio when she received a TEDDY Award from the association’s Technical Electronic and Digital Services Interest Group. The TEDDY Award recognizes significant contributions to the technical, electronic or digital services fields.

Wildermuth said she plans to continue to promote aviation collections and be actively involved in the aviation community.

“But I would also like to highlight some of the other materials in the Archives such as medical history, politics, religion, high altitude experimentation, flood and flood control, for example,” she said. “We have so many rich collections that have great research potential.”

The Archives supports the Public History graduate program by providing students with opportunities to assist researchers and process new collections. Wildermuth would like to give Public History graduate students a chance to learn more about digitization, metadata, digital libraries and institutional repositories. This technological background will make them more marketable when job seeking, she said.

Special Collections and Archives is home to more than 1,000 local and regional history collections and more than 20,000 books and journals. They are located in two separate buildings on the Wright State campus — an open area on the top floor of the Dunbar Library and the basement of the Medical Sciences Building.

In 2017, the university launched a $6.5 million fundraising campaign to create the Wright State University Archives Center in the 2455 Presidential Drive building. The Archives Center would almost triple the space for the university’s world-renowned collections — from 12,000 square feet across two buildings to nearly 30,000 square feet in one central location.

Wildermuth said the Archives needs a new home because it currently lacks the proper environmental controls and space to preserve the archival materials for generations to come. Although the fundraising campaign is on hold because of the pandemic, once the danger of COVID-19 passes, she said, the focus can return to fundraising, grant writing and planning for the new home.

“With the rich history of the Miami Valley, aviation and Wright State University, we need proper space to maintain and protect these important materials,” she said.

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