“Firsts” Research Requests
Alverno College Archives staff have sometimes been asked to provide information about who the "first" student, faculty, or staff member on campus was to do something. In researching these questions, we have found that:
The Archives' primary source evidence lacks demographic information that allows for certain identification. Examples of gaps in historical records include student records, admissions records, and incomplete faculty records.
Photographic evidence sometimes exists, but we cannot retroactively impose a label on a person based on our observations of that person's appearance.
There are "silences" in archival collections. The historical record was often created by people who had power in the institution and may not represent unrecognized "firsts."
Identifying someone as a "first" can discount others who may have struggled to break barriers. It may not have been easy for the second or eighth person either. This type of identification reduces a person's accomplishments to tokenism, can imply that a barrier has been permanently broken, and ignores larger social, legal, and political contexts of the era.
Therefore, we can no longer provide information on the accomplishments of the "first" person of a certain race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or academic credentials.
For questions or further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
February 10, 2023
Thank you to University of Nebraska Medical Center and their policy on “Library ‘Firsts’” and to the SAA College and University Archives Section for its illuminating discussion on “Firsts” held on January 17, 2023.
- An Archives Reference Request form must be completed for all users' requests, one per request, regardless of request format (e.g. email, voice,mail, etc.).
- We reserve the right to require community users to show photo identification before beginning their research.
- Some records have restrictions placed on their use to protect individual privacy or because they contain confidential information. All patrons must honor these restrictions. Access to records restricted by law (e.g. FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) will be limited to individuals authorized by statute, by the depositing department, or by court order. Permission to access other restricted materials may be granted by either the College Archivist, the creating department, or members of the college administration.
- Except for special circumstances according to the judgment of the College Archivist, all archives materials must be used in the Archives reading area (Corona B8.)
- Food and drink are not permitted in the Archives.
- Coats, briefcases, backpacks, and other personal property not essential to research projects must be placed on or near the coat rack.
- All stack areas of the Archives are closed to patrons; all materials will be retrieved by members of the Archives staff.
- Due to the risk of inadvertent damage to documents when ink is used, Archives patrons must use pencil or laptop computers to take notes. Pencils will be provided upon request.
- Because of their sometimes unique and fragile nature, Archives materials must be handled with care; they must not be leaned on, written on, torn, folded, or otherwise handled in any way likely to damage them.
- Records must be kept in their present arrangement; loose pages will stay in order if turned like pages in a book. Please notify a staff member if any items appear to be misfiled, mislabeled or missing.
- When handling photographs, patrons may be asked to wear white cotton gloves provided by the Archives.
- Photocopying is permitted, if it is in accordance with donor agreements and copyright restrictions, unless the item is fragile, exceptionally valuable, or too large. Members of the Archives staff reserve the right to assist with or actually carry out photocopying as necessary.
- The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies and other reproductions of copyrighted materials. Under certain conditions specified in the law, copies may be provided for individual researchers' private use. These may not be further reproduced, published, broadcast, displayed, offered for sale, transferred to another individual or deposited in another institution without written permission from the Alverno College Archives and/or copyright holder.
- The user agrees to give the Archives a complimentary copy of any publication, video production, or other work relying heavily on its collections.
Citations should follow this format:
Alverno College. Office of the President. (A2.2)
Alverno College Archives
Alverno College, Milwaukee, WI
Box 3, Folder 12