On June 1st, we will be saying good-bye to one of our long-time supervisors and archivists, Curtis Greubel. He will retire after 29 years here at the Wyoming State Archives. Before he turns his computer off and reshelves his last box, we asked him to share some memories:
How did you become associated with the Wyoming State Archives?
I received an MA in History from Colorado State University, with an emphasis in archival management, in 1985, about the time job opportunities for prospective archivists became scarce (after a hiring boom). I kept busy with volunteering and part-time jobs at CSU, the Fort Collins Museum, and with a microfilm / records storage business. In 1987 I found out that the Wyoming State Archives was seeking an archivist for a grant funded position. I applied for the job, which involved the arrangement and description of records from the State Engineers’s Office and records of Wyoming’s governors. I was hired and worked on two grant-funded projects before I was selected to fill a vacant permanent position.
How has the WSA changed over the years? How did your duties change?
Of course the amount of material managed and stored has grown many times the amount the Archives had when I started. The use and management of technology has been a major change. When I started we typed letters and finding aids on typewriters. Staff had to share our first computer. Now most information is created digitally. Managing, preserving, and providing access to digital records has been a big challenge for archivists. My duties initially focused on arranging and describing collections, as well as assisting the public with access to information. Early in my career I was also being steered toward a focus on electronic records, but these efforts were stymied by lack of funds for equipment and training. When I became a supervisor my duties broadened to overall collection management issues, developing procedures and planning, and personnel matters. I continued to assist with processing new collections, which I enjoyed doing. Later on, the supervision of microfilming and scanning operations was assigned to me. Managing the increasing volume of information in all formats has been a constant challenge.
What do you see as your legacy/greatest achievement of your career at the WSA?
I don’t know about a legacy. I’ve been involved in the continued effort to improve how we manage and provide access to information, and how we meet the needs of our constituents. The records at the Wyoming State Archives help document who we are and where we’ve come from. I think that knowledge is very important, and therefore the preservation of the historical record is very important, as is maintaining personal information needed by Wyoming’s citizens. Being involved in that effort has been rewarding.
Do you have a favorite collection? Project?
A favorite collection is tough. There are so many interesting ones. What comes to mind at this time is the Campbell Collection, records relating to the lives of Wyoming’s first governor, John Campbell, and his wife, Isabella. The collection includes their diaries. Isabella Campbell’s diaries contain entries recorded when she resided in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. during the years 1864-1866. Though most of the entries deal with personal and family matters, the diaries also reveal something of what life was like in mid-19th century America, and provide a few glimpses of civilian reactions to Civil War events and the assassination of President Lincoln. Governor Campbell’s diaries, 1869-1876, cover his years in Wyoming Territory, and almost two years after he left the Governor’s Office. The collection also includes letters to Governor Campbell from family, friends, favor seekers, and business and political acquaintances. There are references to and correspondence with Wyoming’s political leaders and United States government and military leaders.
Favorite projects include writing administrative histories for state agencies for a Guide to the Archives of Wyoming, planning and organizing events for the grand re-opening of the Barrett Building, where the Archives is housed, after it was renovated, planning for various Archives Month activities, and being involved with strategic planning for the agency, to name a few.
What is your favorite memory/story?
A humorous story involves co-worker Carl Hallberg. In the mid-90s Carl and I were in Rawlins at the State Penitentiary, reviewing and boxing records for transporting to the State Archives. It was a long process and we were there during the lunch hour. A Penitentiary staff member suggested we have lunch in the cafeteria, which also served less risky inmates. The food was free and we didn’t have to leave the site so we agreed. We arrived in the cafeteria toward the end of when lunch was served. When the last inmate left, the guard, apparently not noticing us in our corner, locked up the facility. When we finished our lunch, Carl and I discovered we had become inmates. Fortunately, a trustee who worked in the kitchen was still on duty and eventually discovered our plight. He led us through the kitchen to an exit door.
Overall, visiting many of the state’s historic sites, museums, and historical records repositories as part of the job has been enjoyable.
You have written many posts for our blog over the years, do you have a favorite? Were there other topics you would have liked to explore? Did/do you enjoy writing?
My favorite was probably the one about Tim McCoy. His story is quite remarkable. I also enjoyed the governors’ birthday series. Like McCoy, many of these men started life in very humble situations, but they took advantage of opportunities available in Wyoming, worked hard, and occasionally benefited from fortunate circumstances. The last couple of posts I wrote dealt with lesser known collections. I probably would have continued to write about those.
What was your least favorite task/project?
As I mentioned, the first project I worked on was the organization of State Engineer records. This included a very large amount of general correspondence that needed to be put in alphabetical or chronological order. This tedious task took many months to finish. I was glad to move on to something else.
Do you have plans for your retirement?
I’ll be assisting my wife with her business, working on honey do’s, and maybe doing some writing.
Thank you for the memories, Curtis. We’ll miss you but hope you enjoy a long and well-earned retirement!