From the Archives: Looking at UMBC’s Past to Shape the Future

Lindsey Loeper is archivist at UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery. She completed her B.A. in American Studies at UMBC in 2004.

As UMBC leaders look for ways to increase civic agency and deepen community impact, it may at first seem counterproductive to look to the past as we plan activities to shape UMBC’s future. But while ignoring our collective past may not doom us, examining it can be a great source of shared identity and inspiration, even for a campus as young as ours. As we approach our 50th anniversary, now is an especially good time to look back on some of the people, groups and events that have created that can-do spirit so evident at UMBC today.

The University Archives can—and should—serve as both a repository for the university’s history and a source of self-examination. The material in the archives—including both administrative records and documentation of campus life—can inform and inspire us as we make today’s choices and build our identity for the future. As Randall C. Jimerson observes, “By enshrining certain events and experiences as part of a common history,” our archives and the collective memories they preserve embody “values, rituals, and directions for future actions.”

What are the touchstones of UMBC’s collective memory? What events or aspects should we celebrate and which need to be re-examined so that we can continue to grow? I’ll be looking at a few touchstones on this blog over the next few months, but would like to hear suggestions or stories from others. If you would like to learn more about the university’s archives, visit the library’s University Archives website; view photos and past issues of publications such as The Retriever Weekly and Skipjack, UMBC’s yearbook, at the UMBC Digital Collections website; or contact me by phone or email.

Contact the author, Lindsey Loeper, at (410) 455-6290 or



  1. Delana Gregg says:

    I’ve always been curious about student protests at UMBC. Was there a culture of protests here as there were on other campuses? I heard that free hour came from student protests to have more time to meet with other students…I also know quite a bit about the Knoll (hill behind the RAC) as a “preserved space on campus”…different times groups of people have banded together to save or create something for UMBC (CERA)…those would be interesting posts to me…

    • Thank you for your suggestions, Delana! These both have a lot of potential. UMBC’s built environment and design has always been an area that I would like someone to look into more – it was actually a high priority when the campus was being created and there are some great resources in the Albin O. Kuhn papers about his motivations and preferences. One of my favorite pieces of campus history is that before laying down any permanent cement walkways, the Physical Plant observed the movements of the new students and staff to see where the natural walkways developed. This may be more myth than fact (maybe they were running behind!) but I like the sentiment behind it anyway.


  1. […] response to my very first “In the Archives” post, UMBC staff member Delana Gregg suggested that I write about the history of UMBC’s Free Hour, the […]

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