April 07, 2008
Union donates 60 years' worth of records to SIUC
CARBONDALE, Ill. — Union records containing the stories of men and families whose work helped shape Southern Illinois during the last 60 years now reside at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where preservationists will turn them into a resource for future generations.
SIU President Glenn Poshard on Friday (April 4) signed an agreement with a representative of the Laborers' International Union of North America Local 773 and the union's Southern & Central Illinois Laborers' District Council, which is comprised of seven regional unions. The agreement places the organizations' records with SIUC's Morris Library on permanent loan.
The records, which date back to the 1940's, will provide a valuable resource for scholars researching the history, sociology, politics and economy of the region, Poshard said.
"This is an important addition to our library, especially with its ties to Southern Illinois. We're hopeful this will be the first of many labor histories we can archive here," Poshard said. "These records contain an important part of Southern Illinois history, which is tied to the history of unions in the area."
Edward M. Smith, LIUNA vice president and Midwest regional manager, said the organizations were pleased to find a good home for the records, which were in danger of being lost to the ages.
"It's so important that we don't lose this history," Smith said. "This is really the history of the union's members and their families. It shows when they were able to find work and when they didn't have it, when they were able to get a contract, all those things. It's a real story to tell and the University can preserve that story."
The records — about 90 cubic feet of documents — include a variety of information from day-to-day office files to meeting minutes, contracts, negotiations, publications, photos and training materials. Pam Hackbart-Dean, director of Morris Library's Special Collections and Research Center, said it will take about a year to organize, catalog and protect the collection, making it ready for public use.
"We'll first get more control over the collection, putting them in better boxes and put them in a stable environment" she said. "We'll provide security so that once the collection is ready for the public, you'll come to Special Collections and you'll be able to use it. We'll also do a guide to the collections, which will list what records are there."
The records will have many uses. For example, anyone studying how Rend Lake, local airports or the interstate highway system in the area were built could cross reference other public records with the union records to get a fuller picture of what actually happened, she said. Walter Ray, assistant professor of library affairs, will lead the archiving effort, she said.
"Our goal is to preserve labor's story, one work day at a time," she said.
David H. Carlson, dean of library affairs, said the collection adds an important dimension to Morris Library's collection.
"We are delighted to receive these records for their importance to the labor and social history of southern Illinois," Carlson said. "These unique records are a treasure trove for genealogists, historians, and sociologists."
Historic donation – Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard, left, signs an agreement with the Laborers' International Union of North America Local 773 and the union's Southern & Central Illinois Laborers' District Council to accept the organizations' records on permanent loan. The records, about 60 years' worth, will be available at Morris Library's Special Collections and Research Center in about a year. Sitting with Poshard are David H. Carlson, center, dean of Library Affairs at SIUC, and Edward M. Smith, LIUNA vice president and Midwest regional manager, who represented the union at the ceremony on Friday (April 4).
Photo by Steve Buhman