Elizabeth Yakel in the Vatican Archives

Elizabeth Yakel in the Vatican Archives.

Tom Powers in the Vatican Archives

Tom Powers in the Vatican Archives.

Vatican Archives

The Bentley Historical Library proposed a project to apply modern archival principles and techniques to the description of the Vatican Archives in Rome. Francis Blouin, Thomas Powers, and Leonard Coombs completed a successful pilot project in 1987-88. The library approached the Getty Grant Program and the National Endowment for the Humanities for funding of a one-year project to begin in 1989. This funding allowed the Bentley Historical Library to staff the project in both Rome and Ann Arbor, to survey the archival holdings of the Vatican, and to prepare descriptions of the various record series for entry into the Research Library Information Network (RLIN), a nationwide bibliographic database. The existence of a modern system of access and the presence of descriptive records in RLIN allows scholars to find materials for their research more easily.

(The Bentley Historical Library Annual report, 1988-89, pp. 2-3 in Bentley Historical Library publications, Box 1.)

Fran Blouin and archivists during visit to

Fran Blouin and Nancy Bartlett with
archivists during visit to Beijing.

Chinese Exchange

In 1982 the Bentley hosted a delegation of five archivists from China.

In 1999 an agreement of cooperation between the Foreign Affairs Office of the State Archives Administration of China and the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan was co-signed, establishing a long-term relationship of archival cooperation and exchange. The first group of Chinese archivists visited the Bentley, under this agreement, in 1999. Since that time a total of six delegations have come to the Bentley Library to study American archival methods.

In 2000 the first Bentley delegation traveled to China. Most of the Bentley Library professional staff have visited China as part of this exchange to learn more about the Chinese archival methods.

The Research Fellowship Program on Modern Archives

For fifteen years (1983-1997), the Bentley Historical Library administered a summer research fellowship program focused on problems relating to the archival management and scholarly use of modern documentation. The Research Fellowship Program for Study of Modern Archives was established with funds received from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additionally, the library received funding from the Earhart Foundation of Ann Arbor, two supplemental grants from the Mellon Foundation, and two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities' Division of Preservation and Access.

Throughout its existence, the fellowship program fostered systematic research that allowed individuals and small teams to conduct independent research on a wide range of topics in archival administration.

The program provided funding for almost 100 individual fellows and research team members, who published 69 articles, monographs and reports. The research fellows significantly enriched the extant body of archival literature relating to problems in the selection, use, understanding and administration of contemporary records.

Mellon Fellows 1983

From left to right: Fran Blouin, Director;
the first four Mellon Fellows; and Bill
Wallach, Assistant Director.

Four fellows received the prestigious Posner Award from the Society of American Archivists, awarded to the author of the best article of the year in the society's journal, The American Archivist. The overall quality of the published products is suggested not only by award-winning articles, but also by the frequency of citation to the fellows' articles, monographs and reports. Approximately one half of the articles published in The American Archivist between 1985 and 1997 contained at least one footnote and oftentimes several for publications written by Bentley fellows.

The range of topics taken on by the fellows was both broad and impressive, including the principle of provenance, functional access to archival holdings, new tools for the appraisal of university records and business records, the architecture for archival automated systems, the significance and utility of administrative histories for archivists and historians, an inquiry into the nature and appraisal of records in the health care industry, an analysis of the impact of glasnost' on Soviet archives, documentation strategies and collection analyses, the concepts of uniqueness and preservation, and description and reference in an automated environment. Near the end of the fellowship program, this last area was the focus of a team project that developed the structure and conventions of Encoded Archival Description. EAD revolutionized the ways in which researchers could obtain information about archival holdings while searching remote databases from their home institutions.

Collectively, the Bentley's Research Fellows helped spur advanced research in a number of areas that challenged and informed their colleagues.

BL 75th Banner, Makinac birdge