Bates names new chief of archives and special collections

Katherine A. Stefko is the new director of archives and special collections at Bates College.

Stefko, who started at Bates on Oct. 1, previously worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she managed an archives project to integrate the museum’s manuscripts and institutional records into a processing and digitization program that included publication on the World Wide Web.

At Bates, she directs the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, and oversees the college’s archival and special collections programs.

“The archives is a resource for the students, faculty and staff of Bates College, as well as other researchers,” she says. “We really are open to everyone who has an interest or need.”

Stefko is charged with overseeing and promoting the growth, maintenance and accessibility of Bates’ archival and historic collections. Passionate about history, she believes that its study can’t be divorced from the photos, papers and recordings that history leaves behind — “especially now, when people are so tied to this presumption that if it’s not on Google, it doesn’t exist.”

“Not everything you read in a book is accurate,” she says. “Just because it’s published doesn’t mean it’s the truth, and if it’s on the Internet it’s even more questionable. We actually have the documents, the originals — and I want people to come, look and really think critically about history.”

Naturally, the archives is an especially valuable resource for students, due to both the specific materials it preserves and the overall lessons it offers in the use of primary sources. For example, one assignment in a course about the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam — taught by archivist Chris Beam — is to write a paper based on research in the extensive collection of materials about U.S. Sen. Edmund S. Muskie ’36.

Located at the corner of Central and Campus avenues, the red-brick Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library houses three major collections:

– The Edmund S. Muskie Collection, consisting of almost all the extant records of the life and work of Edmund S. Muskie (1914-1996), a Bates graduate who dominated Maine politics from the mid-1950s to 1981 and became a national leader for environmental protection, government reform and fiscal responsibility. The Archives and Special Collections Library also holds such related collections as the gubernatorial papers of James B. Longley and the Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Project.

– The Rare Book and Manuscript Collections, which include: publications pertaining to the Freewill Baptists in Maine and New England; 19th-century French history and literature; fine-press books published in Maine; Judaica; 19th-century books on natural history, particularly ornithology; and papers of people associated with Bates College or the Freewill Baptists. The Dorothy Freeman Collection contains a large body of correspondence with the biologist, writer and conservationist Rachel Carson.

– Finally, the Bates College Archives, which serves as the official repository of records and other materials that document the history of the college from its founding in 1855 to the present. The College Archives was formally inaugurated in 2000.

Previously, Stefko worked as information coordinator at the Property Information Resource Center at Harvard University, as a resident fellow at the Cambridge Historical Society and as an intern and consultant for the Visual Resources Collection of the Fine Arts Library at Harvard.

Stefko is a Cleveland native. She has an undergraduate degree from Oberlin College, an M.A. from University of Texas at Austin in art history and a master’s in library and information science from Simmons College.

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