There are many ways to preserve history, including turning it into art. That’s what they did when they renovated Illinois State University’s library, creating a display that is “a remembrance of and tribute to” the card catalog.

Card catalogs were ubiquitous in every library until the electronic era made them obsolete. Rather than recycle all the entries and have this method of information retrieval forgotten forever, ISU selected several dozen cards and created an art piece for the library’s stairwells. A plaque honors not only the card catalog itself – which was in use from 1890-2000 – but it also pays tribute to University of Rochester Librarian Otis Hall Robinson who is credited with putting a hole in the cards so a rod could keep them in the proper order.

Today, most people don’t give much thought to the cards, the catalog or the rod/hole system but all these things worked in harmony for effective information retrieval for over a century. Now the artwork and accompanying story can share a bit of history with the next generation of students as well as serve as a conversation piece and décor.

Take a lesson from the library and find creative ways to bring your history out from the archives. Telling your story through art is one great way to do so.

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