SHU archives: Saving more than just books

Black poses with a cup of tea in hand. He keeps a log of everything that has been asked about and looked at, which will also be archived. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Black poses with a cup of tea in hand. He keeps a log of everything that has been asked about and looked at, which will also be archived. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

What would you do if tomorrow you pick up your laptop and it didn’t turn on? After using your charger for an hour and the laptop still doesn’t work, you take it to the solution center to realize it’s not just your computer. What would you do if the entire system went down?

Luckily, if such a thing would happen to Seton Hill University (SHU), Bill Black has it covered.

“For most archives, people come and research. Here, they call and I research,” Black said. During his time in the archives Black processes and gathers information to file it away. He also gets calls several times a week, asking to gather information on particular topics.

SHU students and faculty are welcome to stop by or make a call to Black, to look up a little piece of history ranging from a week prior to when the archives were built. When walking into the building, it may take your eyes a while to see everything. A few trips may be necessary to fully gather all of the artifacts, books, pictures, sculptures, blueprints and so much more.

Items such as Mother Lowe’s letter books are stored away safely deep within the archives. One particular letter Black picked out started just like any other letter from Mother Lowe, “Dear Sir,” “but then quickly transitioned to telling a contractor, ‘it is obvious that your intent is to cheat, steal and lie,’” Black said. “No messing around with Mother Lowe. They didn’t have a leg to stand on.”

These letters have been saved since the very beginning of Seton Hill College. Black mentioned how these have been preserved through the years, stored away with other artifacts.

This artifact was moved to the archives when Seton Hill College was renamed Seton Hill University. It is still hanging proudly as a strong memory to the ones who remember. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This artifact was moved to the archives when Seton Hill College was renamed Seton Hill University. It is still hanging proudly as a strong memory to the ones who remember. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

“Just because you can use it now, doesn’t mean in 20 to 30 years from now you can,” Black said. For example, Black said that the old Nintendo games can’t be played on the old stations. Same goes for VHS tapes. “In the late 70’s we started taping theatre productions. Well, I’m trying to switch them over to digital,” Black said.

“I have to first go from VHS to DVD, because there’s no interface between VHS and directly onto the computer,” Black said. “I have to keep stopping because the tape keeps breaking and I have to splice it. Sections get lost because it got mangled.”

Leaning forward slightly, Black said, “But twenty years from now you will still be able to read English.”

The archives hold anything and everything, which is why SHU shouldn’t worry too much if something were to happen to the system. “I wouldn’t lose information, just a register. But I have copies printed out of those,” Black said. Everything is filed away on paper, not a hard drive.

Walls in the archives are filled with stored information, artifacts and old files. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Walls in the archives are filled with stored information, artifacts and old files. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Each letter written from Mother Lowe was written in these notebooks. Most letters began with, "Dear Sir," and had personality with every word. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Each letter written from Mother Lowe was written in these notebooks. Most letters began with, “Dear Sir,” and had personality with every word. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Would it be possible to go back to just paper? If you think about it, we are using far more paper now than what was used before. Black said that a president of a company would hand out a few papers to a couple higher positioned workers and they would verbally inform the other coworkers. Now, since we have email, it is sent to everyone, and they can easily just print it out. Still, even with our dependency of paper, we still have a major attachment to our technology.

If the power goes out for even a few hours, we suddenly have little to do. Our world comes to a standstill. If our computers were fried? We would go back to paper, but it would still take years to get used to it and years to get everything back to normality.

But what could go wrong? Is there any need to worry? SHU would be fine, but what about your individual files?

“A year and a half ago that solar flare missed us by a wee little bit; they figure 100,000 miles,” Black said, “Which in space terms is nothing. They said it would have fried the entire earth’s electrical grid.”

A solar flare isn’t the only thing we should worry about; hackers are another way a MacBook Air can be fried. The Cloud is located in just a few buildings, not up in the sky or a magical essence like some would assume. If a hacker would get in, it could all disappear.

The blueprint room is still a work in progress, but Black is working diligently to move all of the blueprints from the old area. Blueprints ranged in size, color and depth. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

The blueprint room is still a work in progress, but Black is working diligently to move all of the blueprints from the old area. Blueprints range in size, color and depth. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Realizing this is step one in protecting all of those essays and stories you worked so hard on. Black strongly suggested that putting important information on paper is another way.

“Anything you want to keep, print it out. If it is important enough to keep, print it out,” he said. “Not only can your computer crash, but who knows. You would have to pay a lot of money or go online and find some place that restores computers to be able to access the files.”

It would be very unlikely to wake up one morning and realize a solar flare or a hacker crashed our dear technology. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine a simple computer crash because your laptop felt like having a day off. No matter what the cause, those files saved within the hard drive or within the Cloud can be at risk.

Amelia Earhart once said, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

This is the model for the Boyle Science Center. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This is the model for the Boyle Science Center. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Black added some comical additions to the Boyle Science Center model. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Black added some comical additions to the Boyle Science Center model. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This is a sketch and blueprint for the proposed music and fine arts building. It was designed by Carlton Strong. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This is a sketch and blueprint for the proposed music and fine arts building. It was designed by Carlton Strong. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This blueprint was proposed for the gatehouse that would be at the bottom of the hill. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This blueprint was proposed for the gatehouse that would be at the bottom of the hill. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Black holds up the blueprint of Lowe/Canevin. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

Black holds up the blueprint of Lowe/Canevin. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

The old design for the Chapel Annex and the laundry/bakery is shown. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

The old design for the Chapel Annex and the laundry/bakery is shown. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This is a sketch and blueprint for the proposed music and fine arts building. It was designed by Carlton Strong. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This is a sketch and blueprint for the proposed music and fine arts building. It was designed by Carlton Strong. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This blueprint was proposed for the gatehouse that would be at the bottom of the hill. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

This blueprint was proposed for the gatehouse that would be at the bottom of the hill. Photo courtesy of L.Cowan/Setonian.

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