My Trip to The Marauder Archives
I called Steve Paschen, the Marauder Archivist at the University of Akron, and asked if an appointment was necessary to visit the archives. Much to my surprise, he replied that while appointments were typically scheduled for large projects, they were not required. He told me to give him a heads up as to what I wanted to see and I could stay as long as I wanted. No appointments required, and stay as long as I like? This was good news because other archives require appointments and have short, timed visits.
On March 19, 2004 I flew from Boston to Akron, Ohio to visit the Marauder Archives. The uneventful plane ride was supplanted by my astonishment at a full house inside the archives area. There were three people in the Marauder Room doing research. I didn't expect this and all before I met Steve. I asked Stan Akers, my first point of contact, if this level of activity was normal for a Friday. Stan said both students and professional historians use the Marauder Archives heavily for research.
When Steve came out from a back room, I could tell he was all business; he brought Oliver Corrigan with him. Oliver is a 23-year-old doctoral student in history and he works for the Marauder Archives. He explained his current project of cataloging a box of photographs recently donated by a Marauder Man. Most of the pictures did not have names for the young faces. Laborious and detailed work, I appreciate Oliver's efforts for Marauder Men. I asked him what they would do if a Marauder Man donated a 60 year old leather bound photo album filled with pictures that were labeled with names? There was laughter among us because that is when cataloging Marauder Men material is fun and rewarding.
I realized someone new had entered our small group. It was John Miller, the Director of Archival Services for University of Akron. I immediately felt an elevated level of scholarship. I asked if there is digital capability for the Marauder Archives, which was a loaded question. I knew full well that they do have this capability, but when John led us into another room filled with new high-tech equipment there were "oohs and aahs"... from me! In less than a minute, an 8x10 photocopy was printing from a seriously expensive printer. One Martin B-26 Marauder crew photograph was handed to me. The look and feel of the photo was brand new suitable for any history paper or inclusion in a book. I could see the crinkles in the smiles on the young faces of the crew. It was beautiful. The crew was in the 387th. My uncle Bob was in the 387th, the 558th bomb squadron to be precise. The high-tech equipment was recently purchased with an individual donation from a Marauder Man, whose request was only that they develop the best B-26 archives anywhere. It appears that the Marauder Archives is doing just that.
Sitting around a table, I thought about all I'd heard and read about the Akron archives. I had some tough questions, that I thought might not be answered, but I was wrong. I asked for the Marauder Archives accession record form and gifting certificate. They provided both documents with full explanations. I asked whether a donor's restriction would be honored, they all said that donor's restrictions are absolutely honored. This was a serious question, because some archives don't accept donations with restrictions. An example of a restriction would be if a donor asked that copies not be made of donated photos or asked that a medal never be removed from its box. Some archives don't "get it" and I'm happy to say that the Marauder Archives at Akron do indeed "get it".
I then toured the university's archive storage room where the Marauder Archives collection is stored - normally off limits. I found it to be neat, clean and well organized.
I spent the afternoon at MAPS Air Museum where a Martin B-26 Marauder, is being fully restored; one of the three Marauders found in northern British Columbia. I realized the difference between museums and archives. Both have places in the grand scheme of documenting history for future generations. When it comes to research, education and long-term viability, I want archives that have a mission.
I told John Miller that I had visited other archives, museums and even local historical societies but I was more impressed with Akron than all of the others combined. John generously allowed me to share my experiences and the photos I took during my visit on B26.COM. Something inside tells me that if they receive an album filled with pictures, or a small box with a couple of photos and orders, or a single Marauder Man's mission diary, the Marauder Archives is the right place for Marauder Men material. I will recommend the Marauder Archives to my Uncle Bob too.
The University of Akron, founded in 1870, is probably going to be around for a while longer so, whether you are in Boise, London, Edmonton, Paris, Perth, or Johannesburg, I am happy to recommend the Marauder Archives to all Marauder Men and their descendants.
The B-26 Marauder Archives Fund