By Troy Eller English, SWE Archivist
“The two file cabinets don’t have room for a cockroach to take up residence, so some provision for future archives will eventually have to be made,” lamented archives committee chair Georgine Poultney in a 1977 letter. Established in 1953, the committee had done such a good job documenting the Society’s business that the headquarters office in the United Engineering Center was nearly overflowing with paper and history. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the committee engaged in the Sisyphean task of sorting through the backlog of older documents while newer ones were added to the pile every year. In 1990, the committee debuted “archives parties” — a mix of filing, fun, and reminiscing — to sort through the growing mass of boxes and cabinets in the office and “The Cage” in the UEC basement.
“I believe there has been sufficient hands-on sorting and filing by the committee to have a thorough understanding of the magnitude of effort required to maintain the archives,” declared committee chair Amy Spear, P.E., F.SWE, in an April 1992 committee report, “and to realize it has been and will continue to be a greater effort than what can reasonably be expected of a group of volunteers, despite their dedication.” As the Society prepared to move to a new office on Wall Street, the committee prepared to transfer the first 39 boxes of SWE’s voluminous and unique archives to the Reuther Library at Wayne State University in May 1993.