Good Life

OLLI: Course follows archivist’s path to find answers about Penn State-related history

When it comes to Penn State history, there are hundreds of questions. What is a Nittany Lion? Was the Nittany Lion the first Penn State mascot? Who wrote the various Princess Nittanee stories and why? What were Penn State’s original colors? What educational program supported the construction of the Nittany Lion shrine? When were the first female students enrolled at Penn State?

Archivists are the professionals responsible for the identification, selection, protection, organization and description of archival records and for their accessibility to any user. By ensuring that archival documents are identified, preserved and made available in a systematic fashion, archivists help to secure society’s cultural heritage, protect legal rights and privileges, and contribute to the effective management of a variety of institutions.

Penn State’s university archivist documents the traditions, history and bits of myth related to Penn State’s 160-year history. When a Penn State alumnus, State College resident, local student or researcher from a world away asks questions about the stories related to Penn State , it is the archivist who must follow the paper (or electronic) trail to determine the best answers to those questions.

For example, what tradition lies behind the beautiful and artistic Lion’s Coats? What are the secrets inside the Penn State cane? If you have a Penn State question or story, the archivist is the person who interprets the stories, puts them into context and delivers the resources to answer the questions for you.

The search process is often long and arduous, for there may be many threads to the answer. The result, however, is often that “a-ha” moment, when the mystery is solved

Join me as I share my Penn State knowledge in the OLLI course “All Things Nittany” on Feb. 9. To obtain a free Winter 2015 catalog, call the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Penn State at 867-4278. OLLI membership is open to all adults who love to learn. There are no grades or exams — just learning for the pure enjoyment.