University Archivist Anne Sauer leaves Tufts Digital Collections and Archives

Anne Sauer (LA ’91, G ’98), the former director of Tufts Digital Collections and Archives (DCA) and university archivist, last Monday joined the staff of the Cornell University Library as director of the rare and manuscript collections. A double Jumbo, Sauer earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees, both in history, here on the Hill. 

“I feel like I’m finally graduating Tufts,” Sauer said. “Only how many years later?”

While studying for a master’s degree in library and information science at Simmons College, Sauer held three project positions in the Tufts DCA, beginning in 1994, before taking on a permanent position. She has worked as the DCA director and university archivist for the past ten years. 

Laura Walters, associate director for teaching, research, and information resources at Tisch Library, spoke to Sauer’s many qualities that have made her a successful leader and an asset to the DCA.

“One of [Sauer’s] faculty members … was also getting an MLS in the archives program at Simmons, and so he called me to see if I’d be willing to have lunch with … [Sauer] to talk about what its like working in academic library, and what I thought the future would be like for her,” Walters said. “And that was more than 20 years ago. We had a lovely conversation, and I saw that Anne was exactly the kind of person that we want to have in the profession – she was intelligent, flexible … [and] a real problem solver.”

Twenty years ago, when Sauer returned to campus after her undergraduate years, the DCA was a much smaller program than it is today. When she first arrived, the DCA had just reopened and the department only had a staff of two.

Since then, the program has added four more employees, and has undertaken several significant projects to improve library resources at Tufts. One of the largest has been the creation of the Tufts Digital Library, which Sauer took a crucial role in spearheading. Beginning in 2003, in collaboration with University Information Technology (UIT) Educational & Scholarly Technology Services, the online database digitally stores content created at Tufts, by members of the Tufts community, its affiliates, or allied organizations.

“The one thing I’m most proud of is the Tufts Digital Library, which is an online repository for our digital collections,” Sauer said. “So [it is] where we’ve scanned all these digital photographs, campus maps, newspapers and all kinds of information from across our collections. The digital library provides a place for people to have access to it. 

Sauer additionally described the future goals of development in the program. 

“It’s been a true collaboration … and we are now expanding that service to be something that will be open to all of the libraries to contribute to and other academic departments as well,” she said. “[They] will be able to put digital resources into this environment and make them available for people to use.”

This inclusive and ambitious project required Sauer to reach across many departments to get materials for the archives, according to University Records Manager and Acting Director Eliot Wilczek.

“She was really good at working across boundaries at the university, working with just a whole diverse set of people, whether they’re librarians or IT folks or faculty or students or alumni or donors,” he said. “She really was good at making people feel comfortable … giving materials, particularly donors giving materials, that mean a lot to them and handing [them] over to an institution.”

Sauer worked closely with Tisch Library in particular to establish a strong relationship that would facilitate record and document collection.

“She formed a very strong partnership with…[Tisch],” Walters said. “Anne was just a great bridge builder [and] a great partner. She really knew how to be a member of a team. At Tufts, because we are so decentralized – so every school has its own library, its own dean and its own budget – there really wasn’t any infrastructure to make this [relationship] work [previously].”

One of Sauer’s first projects became the foundation for a book, “Tufts University, A Photographic History” (2002). Sauer discussed how working on the book was one of her favorite projects during her time at Tufts, and it allowed her to experience even more history on the Hill: from the welcoming of women into the institution and the fight for the first co-ed dorm (Lewis Hall), to the role P.T. Barnum played as a trustee and advocate for higher learning and education.

“So we really tried to tell a story with the photo book,” she said. “It would be really easy to have just thrown in cool pictures, but we always tried to pair the photographs together so that they would tell something of a story of how things have changed over time at Tufts.” 

Sauer noted one significant change throughout her time at Tufts. 

“One of the things that’s been really wonderful to see over the years is how much more aware people in the Tufts community are of the history of Tufts,” she said. “When I was a student here the late ’80s [and] early ’90s … I don’t remember ever hearing … anything about the history of the institution.”

Given rapidly changing technologies and business models affecting institutions like the DCA, Sauer has adapted to a variety of platforms in her 10 years at Tufts.

“She was a good role model for her staff in that way too,” Walters said. “She modeled the kind of behavior that people in our world need to have, because our world, the library world, the archives world, as you can imagine, is changing at a phenomenal rate.” 

Many of these changes come from attempting to digitize records, including websites from the 1980s and personal items or research belonging to professors. But Sauer is confident that the archives program will continue to meet these challenges head on.

“I’m hopeful and looking forward to seeing the program continue to work on the cutting edge of archives,” she said. “These are complicated problems, and they are not easy to solve. Even though we’ve been a small program, Tufts has been a great place to work on trying to figure out some of these problems … I think, with the foundation of the digital repository and the work that we’ve put in in setting up work flows and procedures to help us manage electronic files as they come in, … we will continue to move forward.”