New additions to the Department of Economics records available for research!
Early in 2022, the University Archives was contacted by the Department of Economics regarding a recently unearthed trove of historical documents which had been tucked away in a storage closet for many decades. University Archivist Josh Schneider and Assistant University Archivist Hanna Ahn went to investigate, and were ecstatic to find that the files and notebooks inside those dusty boxes were indeed related to the early history of the department! The boxes were transferred to the University Archives in early spring, and the work to inventory and organize the files began shortly thereafter.
Ahn, who has been managing the University Archives student workforce since spring 2021, thought that the newly transferred Department of Economics records would be of great interest for two of her student staff, Christian Guallpa and Bradley Strauss, given their fields of study and personal curiosities. After reviewing the materials and the scope of the project with Christian and Bradley, the work to inventory and process the files began at the start of April 2022. One challenging aspect of the project was the difference in work schedules between the two student archivists, so Ahn devised a plan for them to work asynchronously on separate parts of the collection using a shared spreadsheet. Processing work was completed in December 2022; the new additions to the Department of Economics (SC0072) collection are now available for research. To share more information about what the work process was like, in addition to learning a bit more about the students themselves, Ahn conducted a short interview with Christian and Bradley, available below.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What are you currently studying, what year are you, how long have you been working for the University Archives?
Christian: Hi! My name is Christian Guallpa, a third-year student majoring in Data Science and minoring in Economics at Stanford University and originally from Chicago. I have been working with the Stanford University Archives since Fall 2021. To me, the completion of the collection was a bittersweet feeling. While I was glad to be done with the project, I was quite disappointed to discontinue the adventures with the collection, since the Department of Economics collection was definitely the most intriguing project I have worked with in my time so far with the Stanford University Archives. I am also grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside Bradley Strauss.
Bradley: Hi! I’m Bradley Strauss, a second-year student studying economics at Stanford University who is also originally from the Chicagoland area. I’ve been working with University Archives since October 2021. While I’ve had a number of projects during my time here, such as working with the metadata for the digitized Philosophy Talk collection, the most recent one has probably been my favorite–fittingly, it’s work with historical documents from the formation of the Stanford Department of Economics along with Christian Guallpa.
What interested you in working on these materials?
Christian: When I was provided the option to choose between several collections to work on, I knew that the recently discovered Department of Economics documents would be the most captivating to process. I also understood that I would be reading important materials, including budget statements and historic documents. Hence, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. I have always been interested in learning more about the role economics had in U.S. history, so the decision was a no-brainer for me. I was prepared and excited to embark on this journey. As expected, the collection did not disappoint. I learned a lot of things I would not have learned in a typical classroom. This experience was definitely unique and special to me.
Bradley: Like Christian, I’m really interested in economics and its relationship to the university as well as how the curriculum for it has developed. I also love learning about Stanford history, which this collection offered a better understanding of as well. So of course, being an economics major, it was a no-brainer to take on the project. In retrospect, I’m really glad I have been able to work on this project, not only because of the contents and how they appeal to my interests, but also just being able to work with Christian and Hanna as a team has been really enjoyable.
Can you tell us about what it was like working asynchronously on this collection? What were some challenges?
Christian: Working on the collection with Bradley, the biggest challenge we had to overcome was coordinating our work with different schedules. We rarely ever had the same shift, so without the consistent communication, the work became increasingly more difficult to properly organize the collection. Nonetheless, we worked under the same spreadsheet, so we were able to view each other’s work, which helped keep the filing as consistent as possible. Thankfully, the economics collection was not the first archival project for either Bradley or me, so our experience certainly had an important role in keeping the filing consistent and properly organized. When we both finished inventorying the materials, we were able to meet in person to find the best way to wrap up the collection. The whole process was definitely a learning experience for both of us; the collection would have been impossible to finish without the help and constant communication from our supervisor, Hanna Ahn. She was undoubtedly the glue in the process.
Bradley: I definitely agree with everything Christian said. I think what made it much easier to coordinate was largely the presence of a shared document where we could gain a better understanding of the methodology and naming mechanism each was using, and then trying to match each other’s work so combining the materials would be less intensive at the end.
What did you learn while working on this collection?
Christian: A wide range of files compose the collection. Perhaps the most intriguing set of correspondence I found was about the War Trade Board. The War Trade Board was established in October 1917. The board was responsible for licensing exports and imports, shipping facilities for American and Allied use, prohibiting enemy credit in the U.S., and more. The board was later abolished in June 1919. However, as introduced in the collection, a War Trade Board Club was soon founded in October 1919. As stated in the correspondence, the club was “organized for the purpose of continuing the social relations which existed among those who were officially associated with the War Trade Board of the United States during the World War.” Many important people were involved with the club, which included a board of governors. However, not everyone wanted to participate. For example, one person did not find the membership beneficial, so he rejected the offer.
Bradley: This addition to the Department of Economics collection covers the time period of 1900-1958, a fascinating time not only for history in general, but also economic history. You’ve got World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, and while the focus of these documents is mostly not the outside happenings of the world, these events and their magnitude seep into the documents. For example, there were multiple economics students who requested to be relieved of any military training duty for World War I (many of whom were rejected). On the other hand, economically, you have the Great Depression, and on a more Stanford-specific side, great economists like Kenneth Arrow and Moses Abramovitz arriving at Stanford at different points in time, serving to build the department into what it is today. This collection is important for not only understanding how the economics department came to be one of the best in the nation, but also how Stanford got to be the way it is. One document in the collection was an argument formed by the psychology department in favor of a semester system instead of the quarter system, which we all know and love (or hate). There also is some insight into what economics in the university looked like in the early 20th century through past listings of course offerings in the department. Beyond this, there’s also just quirky stuff that you find throughout the parsing of the documents, like one where Murray S. Wildman, the head of the department, got into a car accident where the offender was traveling at a dangerous 10mph.
About the University Archives
The Stanford University Archives collects, preserves, and provides access to content in any format that documents the history of the university, in support of teaching, learning, and research at Stanford and beyond. Please contact us if you would like to discuss sharing your materials with us, or if you have any questions about using the collections.