The collection has been housed in this building only since 1989, when the newest addition to the library included a room built specifically to preserve the archives. Before that most of the archives were stored in a room off the chapel, a space that that offered little in the way of protection, preservation, or organization of its contents. In 1969 the position of college archivist was made official (see box at right).
The contents of the room, at first glance, are not especially exciting, except for the large central table currently laden with books from the rare book collection, here temporarily while the contents of their normal home in the rare book stacks are being shifted and cleaned. These are tantalizing: Diderot's Encyclopedie (all 35 volumes, a "pirated" edition printed in Geneva in 1751); Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 3 volumes, 1587; the very delicate and tiny volume by George Buchanan, Geor Buchanani Scoti Poemata quae extant, published in 1628 and only 11 cm. large. But these treasures belong elsewhere; they are not of the archives and will soon return to their rightful place.
The real treasures here are on those shelves, a seeming hodgepodge of records of the college, collections of historical significance, and manuscript collections. Intermingled with these are a few choice objects-a beautiful wooden-handled jump rope from the collection of Janet Binford '36, Simeon Reed's favorite fishing rod carefully housed in a leather case. Here are the archival copies of every Reed student's senior thesis, preserved for future generations. Here are boxes and boxes of business office records, offering innumerable opportunities for exploring the economics of a small college through the years. Here are more Quests than one would ever want to read, all the Griffins. And here are file folders upon file folders that attempt to organize the history of the college, from the honor principle to buildings to student life.
The challenge of organizing all this paper seems daunting. While libraries contain books that are arranged individually on shelves by subject, archival materials are usually grouped in boxes and arranged variously by the name of the person or office that produced them or by subject area. The organization of these records is an ongoing process of cross-referencing and cataloguing the hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper, photographs, books, publications, and artifacts in an effort to make them as accessible as possible to researchers.