A Satisfying Life Among the Stacks

By Catherine Bruck
Former University Archivist, IIT


While I’ve never seen it listed in any job description, one of the most crucial qualifications to success in the archival field is passion. Whether we approach our work from a historical perspective or a technical one, the endorphin-induced high of finding an archival gem, locating a long-lost photograph, processing a hidden collection rich in content, or finding THE document that provides the missing link—any of these “Eureka!” moments—can make an archivist’s day sparkle. Experiencing a long series of them over the course of nearly 17 years can turn an archivist’s work into career fulfillment.

Catherine Bruck
Catherine Bruck
Photo: Scott Benbrook

But what makes an archivist’s life a blessing is sharing her finds with others. Thus, it is with joy that I tell you of a secret I discovered in the IIT Archives: The history of Illinois Tech is richer, deeper, and more profound than any of us might have suspected; the contributions of IIT and our predecessor schools to the field of higher education and to the city of Chicago are greater than we ever could have imagined.

Anniversaries are about recognizing past successes and counting accomplishments as well as years. As we begin to celebrate the university’s 125th anniversary, I could easily list 125 collections in the IIT Archives to make your heart race and your mind boggle, but print space is limited; here’s a random list, unprioritized and in no particular order. Enjoy the hunt—revel in the treasures you find. And thank you for having let me accompany you on the expedition. l

Editor’s Note: Catherine Bruck served as IIT university archivist for nearly 17 years before retiring on February 28. Five of her favorite collections are featured here; their images and other collections on her list can be found in an IIT Magazine Online Exclusive with Bruck at www.iit.edu/magazine.

  • An image of a beaming, young Gwendolyn Brooks, Chicago’s poet laureate at the time, with two IIT “co-eds” when Brooks was awarded an honorary degree in 1968. (1998.199/-Box LL/Con-Eq)
  • A vintage copy of the handwritten music score “IIT Loyalty Song,” the university’s original alma mater, by O. Gordon Erickson. (1998.209)
  • Two collections of IIT-published brochures, both visually attractive but whose primary importance is comprehensive documentation of fundraising programs in the 1940s and 1960s. (1998.294 and 1998.296)
  • Lois Bey’s 1950 class ring, designed by Bey because she wanted a feminine-looking ring instead of the designs offered to her male classmates. (2012.004)
  • A photo of the 1949 junior prom held at the Congress Hotel with integrated student attendees. (1950 Integral [IIT yearbook]; page 237)