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Kettering’s Archives Hold a Quarter-Mile of History (Connections 2015)

The four-page article, “Kettering’s Archives Hold a Quarter-Mile of History”, by Maura Casey was published Fall 2015 in Kettering Foundation‘s annual newsletter, Connections 2015 – Our History: Journeys in KF Research. Casey describes the treasure trove of information that can be found in the Kettering Foundation archives. The archives contain decades of documentation, dating as far back as the 1920s, which give detailed information on how citizens have interacted around a variety of issues.  Read an excerpt from the article below and find Connections 2015 available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

KF_Connections 2015From the article…

The windowless, basement room that houses the archives of the Kettering Foundation is out of the way for most of the foundation’s visitors. But, in many ways, the records it holds serve as the silent sentinels of the organization. They tell a tale of where the foundation has been and hold clues as to the path ahead.

The room contains a little more than a quarter-mile of material nestled in towering, rolling shelves. There’s an estimated 1,250 feet of paper files, 25 feet of photographs, and more than 100 feet of audio-visual material. The foundation thrives on conversation and discussion, and the archives make certain that all those words, and the research supporting them, leave records behind.

“The breadth of information that we have traces the research and follows various ideas relating to citizen roles involving community, government, and education and how to make citizen ideas visible,” Kingseed said. “We do a lot of work by talking, but those conversations leave traces. This is the place that backs up the stories we tell.

McDonough agreed. “You can’t know where you are going, unless you know where you have been,” she said. “For example, if you want to do work in public education, it’s always a good idea to see what we learned 20 years ago. As much as people like to think that in 20 years America has changed a whole lot [concerning education], well, it really hasn’t. All you have to do is examine our NIF issue guides from the 1980s: the things they talked about we are still dealing with today. And if you don’t save it, you won’t have it in the future.” Are the archives in danger of getting filled? Not for awhile, said McDonough.

The archives room is only about half-full. The foundation began to scan reports in 2010, but digitizing records won’t necessarily mean more room, as the originals are retained. Publications, such as the Kettering Review, Higher Education Exchange, and Connections, will be scanned and become .pdf copies, searchable through the foundation’s computer network. Changing technology, however, presents challenges of its own. McDonough keeps a floppy disk drive reader handy for accessing old files and will keep a DVD drive to read compact discs that are already being replaced by newer technology.

According to McDonough, materials related to Kettering’s Citizens and Public Choice program area take up the most files in the archives, followed by materials related to public education and higher education. Kettering’s archives are primarily organized by program area. Some materials are organized by a single foundation staff member, such as with the multinational/international program area. “Hal Saunders had it so well organized, I just kept all the files the way he had it,” McDonough said. When staff members prepare for retirement, McDonough starts working with them months in advance of their final day to get their files organized for inclusion in the archives.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2015 issue, edited by Kettering program officer Melinda Gilmore and director of communications David Holwerk, focuses on our yearlong review of Kettering’s research over time.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Casey_2015_0.pdf

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