August 09, 2019

The Archivist and Indiana Jones

Adventures and discoveries don’t always require a trip to a far-off location. A visit to the College Archives on the lower level of the Morse Library can make anyone an intrepid explorer.
  • Indiana Jones objects
    Image by Josué Miguel Escudero from Pixabay

Rumor has it that Beloit alumnus Roy Chapman Andrews (1906) Roy Chapman Andrews ’06was the inspiration for movie hero, Indiana Jones. Certainly, the explorers shared similar feats of derring-do and boasted larger-than-life panache. 

During 30 years working in the Beloit College Archives, I sometimes find myself thinking about Indiana Jones, especially when combing the campus for archival treasures. Although I’ve never fought my way out of a booby-trapped Peruvian cave or faced down a chamber teeming with poisonous snakes, I have explored mysterious, dimly lit basements, attics, and storage rooms.

I remember pushing through a curtain of sticky cobwebs and crashing into a bank of file cabinets rusted to a cement floor. A battered drawer pulled open with a painful creak, and there was 1930s-era administrative correspondence, each folder tab precisely gnawed off by some ancestral mouse, which left the Franklin Delano Roosevelt letter – and all the others – still safely tucked away, pristine.

Sneezing through more than a century of dust in the attic of Middle College, I retrieved long-lost photographs of the “Black Demands” of 1969. A forgotten closet revealed a dusty stack of film reels dating from the 1920s to the 1950s. We’ve also recovered 19th-century ledgers from dormitory floodwater, salvaged a smoke-blackened brick from the fire-ravaged First Congregational Church, and beaten off mold, mildew, and possible wrack and ruin.

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