Behind the Scenes at the Archives and Special Collections

This week is a Behind the Scenes edition. Today, we look at the Archives and Special Collections at Valparaiso University Library. Any student from any department can elect to enroll in the unique and priceless experience. Lets take a look at an average day in the life of a History department intern.


Instructions: scan and itemize items in Excel

After a week of lectures, assignments and routine projects it is exciting to open a mystery box. You never know exactly what you’ll find inside or what needs to be done.

Today’s assignment is an unassuming grey box filled with an assortment of old documents. Inside I find letters, photographs and an identification card, an eerily similar card to my common and often taken for granted school ID card. The difference is this ID is from a Shanghai Jew who fled the Holocaust.

This little gray box holds the effects of a survivor who narrowly escaped the Holocaust. He fled to Shanghai to escape the Nazis in Europe. In contrast to all the short stories, novels and films I’ve watched this box doesn’t have a finite viewpoint or voice. These documents are anything but Hollywood. They don’t have a narrator and they speak for themselves. Together they make up a life, a complicated life of domestic, career and religious exploration. This box is one among hundreds lining the shelves awaiting digitalization from students.

The letters, photos and documents resemble my own family files. There are tax receipts, job records, letters of inquiry, letters asking favors, photographs of family and friends growing up and big events, and even scraps of unlabeled out of context fabric. This life was an entire life, not just a surviver of a single war, but a person who lived decades before and after a war. The war which was a great change in his life, was only a single chapter. He did amazing things. He survived and helped build our space program.

Who is he?

This is just one person among thousands who escaped to Shanghai. Stop by the Archives and Special Collections on the second floor of Valparaiso University’s Library. There is a display on the Shanghai Jews. Perhaps you could fit in a class through the History department or catch a public talk put on by the University. If not, why not spend two minutes to look at the display on the second floor near the the second floor Archives department?

These items are more then a story. They are crumbling, rough paper, smeared ink on telegrams and sepia colored photographs that blur into a room full of rare books. It is a tactile experience that is slowly decaying in your hands. The Archives and it’s interns attempt to digitize these items so when they are gone something echos beyond. I am honored to hold them in my hands, scanning the musty creased papers as I carefully slip digitized items into their special grey boxes to be buried again.

4:00 pm

Time to go home. I can’t help but think, this is not your average day of classes…

Check out the digitized items on the Archives and Special Collections website:

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Time for class…photographs graciously provided by the Archives and Special Collections.

Thank you from the VV Team!

Top ten reasons Valparaiso University students avoid volunteering and real opportunities to change that


We asked the Valparaiso University community and we listened to your heartfelt questions. There are many ways of volunteering and to make it less overwhelming we made an easy list of questions, fears and potential opportunities coming up at Valparaiso University. If you worry about volunteering issues, you are not alone. Thanks for your honesty!

Our top ten student questions and some real opportunities to explore volunteering:

1. What if I don’t have a lot of time?

Micro Volunteering

  • Sometimes volunteering is too big to handle now. We don’t judge here. How about baking some cookies for a local bakesale? Someone has to smell those lovely cookies baking….if you test eat a few….that’s up to you.

Check out some local orgs, maybe they need a batch of cookies at their next event:

2. What would I learn, or get out of it?

Volunteer tourism or Voluntourism

  • If you are a student, did you know traveling abroad is part of your tuition? Too good to be true, but you can use your scholarship or aid to travel over spring break and do some good while your at it. Check out the options, maybe this spring break you can make those two weeks really count.

Check out traveling abroad with your cohort and earn college credit:

3. What if I want to just stay on campus?

Organization positions

  • Few people realize how much volunteer work goes into student orgs. Valparaiso University students have 200+ non-profit organizations to choose from. There are even more non-volunteer organization that maybe just fun. Stop by a meeting or inquire about what they need. Maybe you don’t need to be president. Maybe they need someone to set up streamers for the next event. Did you know the organization Valpo Yoga teaches free yoga classes?

Check out the 200+ orgs:

4. What can I do?

Formal volunteering

  • Anyone can take a class and enjoy a local non-profit. Have you always wanted to have a green thumb or pose with a live hawk? How about learning about local endangered species while earning a certificate in a few months? Look at the Master Naturalist Certification at Taltree. You could be a certified expert in something by next semester.

Master Naturalist Class:

5. What if I’m too shy?

Informal volunteering

  • Maybe face to face isn’t your thing. It’s not required for volunteers to be people persons. Have you considered volunteering at a hotline? Valpo is home to many nonprofits like the Caring Place, breaking the cycle of violence with a 24 hotline. They depend on volunteers to change lives and save lives.

Caring Place:

6. Can it help me get a job?

Work toward your career by practicing now

  • It’s one of the most common myths. You can gain valuable experience and have fun volunteering. If you are a law student-what about volunteering your time at a law practice to defend non-profits? If you are a premed student-how about the local hospital? Even those Candy-Stripers learn valuable tips about hospital hygiene and regulations. Employers get the chance to know you and what better resume reference then your potential boss?

Check out the next Career Fair. You can volunteer there before you apply for a future career:

7. What can I really change?

Relief work

  • Ever wondered who actually does cleans up after hurricanes or packed that lunch for the homeless? Do you need practice before you graduate? Maybe you could practice organization and leadership by signing people in at the Red Cross Blood Drive.

Relief work with Red Cross:

8. How can I find time to relax if I’m volunteering?

Conservation or environmental

  • Imagine walking down a beautiful beach, the lakeshore sands sparkle in the sunset, your best friend is making you laugh after a bad day, then you stumble across a soda can. Instead of picking up seashells, your not really supposed to take those anyway, what about picking up a few plastic bottles? Valparaiso University will drive students there during welcome week to do just this.  

Welcome Week Events:

9. Isn’t it ambitious to think I could change the world?

Social Action

  • You can help change the world. Sometimes it is as easy as listening. Check out MLK day at Valpo. There will be many opportunities to speak up and to hear others opinions. You can even submit an art project. How does MLK day speak to you?


10. Will I actually enjoy it?

Community Service  

  • Okay so maybe all the above is not your cup of tea. How about buying your friend a cup of coffee while you study together? Or could you open a door for another student whose hands are full? Being a good neighbor is often overlooked. The city of Valparaiso will even pay for your next coffee if you’d like to meet your local neighborhood police officer or detective. You don’t need a penny or more then ten minutes to start.

Coffee with a Cop:

As your neighbor, Valparaiso Volunteers thanks you in advance for the next good deed you do!     

~Want an super easy good deed? Forward this post to a friend! Thanks from the VV Team!