Summer Centered: Rhea Chandran ’23 Builds Institutional Memory
In her work as the library’s “Documenting Student Life” intern this summer, the history major is chronicling campus strikes by collecting oral histories from students and alumni.
The rhythms of Haverford, like all colleges, are continuous. In the fall, a new class of students enters. In the spring, the seniors leave. This pattern makes documenting student life important, otherwise, histories can be easily lost or forgotten. Quaker and Special Collections’ “Documenting Student Life” intern this summer, Rhea Chandran, is working to catalog those histories for the library.
Chandran’s project has been focused on gathering oral histories about the fall student strike and similar strikes in the past. She conducts hour-long interviews with different students and alum to hear about their experiences and document them in Haverford’s archive. She is also working with primary sources like strike materials, photographs, letters, and provost records.
The data and materials Chandran collects are available in the library's digital strike archive. This project is part of a larger initiative to reduce the underrepresentation of student life in the archive and strengthen institutional memory.
“This has been really rewarding because building institutional memory is very important for bettering spaces for BIPOC and FGLI [First-Generation, Low-Income] students,” said Chandran. “Hopefully, students will be able to use the data I am gathering now in their future academic and extracurricular pursuits as they see fit.”
As a history major, Chandran is gaining experience with archives that will be essential for her future course and thesis work. As the only Documenting Student Life intern, she has also learned how to work, manage communications, and stay organized on an independent project.
However, her work has been far from lonely. Chandran has been able to meet and connect with students across campus.
“I have loved talking with students that I normally wouldn’t have met through the oral history project,” she said. “It’s been a great chance to get to know more people.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ campus-supported summer work.