COLUMBUS, Miss. – As Mississippi University for Women’s new part-time archivist, Derek Webb is excited about helping preserve the school’s history.
It has been a while since MUW has had an archivist, and Webb will help the university decide what steps to take in preserving documents, as well as making the archives more accessible to students and scholars. He explained that will mean taking measures for basic preservation of the collections, such as cleaning and relocating endangered materials.
In just the few weeks that he has been on the campus, Webb has come across some interesting finds.
“I found the transcription of a letter from Jefferson Davis expressing his regrets at not being able to attend the school’s opening ceremony in 1884,” he said. “The day before that, I found a folder on a bribery and nepotism scandal. The day before that, I found myself reading poetry composed by students for the 1902 yearbook.”
Along with uncovering the university’s buried history, another part of his job will include looking for grant funds for larger projects and drafting policies to govern the basic functions of the archives.
“The MUW archive is one of this state’s hidden treasures. It’s a treasure trove, and it’s important that we protect it and make it available to students, faculty, alumni and the public,” he said.
Before joining MUW, Webb worked as a librarian in the Medieval Institute at Notre Dame for five years before relocating to Columbus with his wife, Amber Handy, an assistant professor in the Department of History, Political Science and Geography. He is originally from Lubbock, Texas.
Webb earned his bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in classical languages from Texas Tech University in 2002. He went on to earn his master’s degree in early Christian studies from the University of Notre Dame in 2005 and master’s degree in library science from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis in 2010.