facebook icon twitter icon youtube icon

Live On Red and Gold


Where it All Began

In 1995, following years of exhaustive research, Simpson History Professor Joseph E. Walt authored “Beneath the Whispering Maples: The History of Simpson College.” Writing most of his work in Dunn Library, Walt printed each chapter on a photocopy machine in Mary Berry Hall and personally delivered them to Dyer.

“I became friends with Joe through our archival work,” said Dyer. “Our connection deepened when he invited me to attend a Rotary meeting with him in 1989, the first year that women were permitted to join and become Rotarians. For over 20 years, we attended Rotary together — my Fridays with Joe.”

Upon Walt’s death in 2013, Dyer was named the co-executor of his estate. After creating several scholarships to allow Simpson students to study abroad, Walt’s family contemplated where to allocate the rest of his Simpson gift. They knew, as a historian and Simpson enthusiast, he would want to give to the library but needed to figure out how to do so. So, they turned to Dyer.

Keeping History Safe

Dyer knew that Walt was concerned about archive safety. Upon her Simpson arrival in 1978, the archives sat in boxes on a cement slab on the library mezzanine. In 1983, the work to organize and more safely store the archives began in earnest. The archives moved from the floor to shelves and were stored in proper archival boxes. While this was a major improvement, there was still much more work to do.

Accordingly, Walt’s family provided funding to make some essential improvements to the space. A workroom was built to include temperature and humidity control, as well as a dry gas fire suppression system. The Walt Research Library was also created, allowing people to view the archives up close, including Walt’s famous Liechtenstein Collection.

After those renovations and additions, the library had remaining funds to allocate toward further archival enhancements. Now that the archives were safe and accessible to view in person, Dyer says the next big step was to make them available from anywhere.

Access for All

The digitizing of the Simpson archives began in 2021. Since the project was made possible by the Walt family, it seemed only fitting to begin with “Beneath the Whispering Maples.” After Simpson’s history made its way to the Internet, a number of items were added to the digital archive including, The Simpsonian student newspapers (1870-2023), Simpson Alumnus Bulletin (1956-1989), The Zenith Yearbooks (1896-2017), and previous issues of Simpson: The Magazine (1990-2022).

Since putting these publications online last February, people have been exploring the site to find stories and photos featuring their family and friends. “People are looking up themselves, their friends, their parents, their grandparents,” said Dyer. With a quick type in the search bar, viewers can find phrases or names in any archived item dating back to 1870.

Additionally, those searching can now find a complete list of the Simpson College Archives online. Among them, you’ll find the George Washington Carver Collection, Lane Sisters Collections, and Simpson College memorabilia dating back to the 1860s.