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.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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