Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible.
Title and Role: Michelle Crowe is the IU Libraries Director of Communications. She helps IU Libraries tell our story to students, staff, and faculty as well as coordinates with members of the media who seek to access our expertise and resources.
Educational background: Michelle was a nerdy 7th grader when she was selected for a summer camp at Ball State University focused on the very first forms of desktop publishing. She came back to Owen Valley Middle School (go Patriots) and began working on the student newspaper. It felt natural for her to attend Ball State and major in Journalism, but an internship exposed Michelle to Public Relations and she added that focus. She is currently taking classes at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs for her certificate in Nonprofit Management.
Previous experience: Michelle thinks you are probably less interested in her experience spilling drinks on campers at the Canyon Inn, but during her professional career she has worked almost exclusively for nonprofit organizations. She started in healthcare at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, but then found her dream job – Community Relations Manager at Anderson Public Library. When she moved to Bloomington, she went back into healthcare communications at Bloomington Hospital (now IU Health) before eventually joining the IU Libraries.
Partnership with the IU Archives: According to Michelle, the IU Archives is a dream client for any communicator. Storytelling is the most effective form of communication, and that means the Archives is a golden treasure box – it feels nearly magical to her. When an archivist or other professional comes to her to request help with promoting a pop-up library or because a journalist is seeking to write about one of the collections, she is always certain the experience will be both interesting and efficient. Sharing knowledge comes naturally to everyone at IU Libraries, but according to Michelle it feels like the Archives is even more invested in making sure she has everything she needs and in partnering with her to tell a really engaging story.
Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives: Michelle is the IU Archives photography database’s biggest fan and talks about it all time! She loves the keyword search functionality and the ease with which she can download images to use them in a huge variety of projects, or request large file size versions when needed. She also knows that she’s not the only communicator on campus that feels this way.
Project she’s currently working on: Just this week the Communications Department received a stack of custom bicentennial birthday cards Michelle was able to put together with lots of help from the Archives and the photo database. Imagine her surprise when she searched for “cake” and got back a black-and-white image of a multi-tiered four-foot tall cake with taper candles? She had to know more. And a few search-result pages later she found more photos of cakes. Michelle was able to learn a bit about the history of this brief IU tradition through other Archives resources and ended up with a card that is a stand-alone bicentennial history lesson. It is one of her favorite projects so far this year.
Favorite experience with the IU Archives: In 2016 Michelle was brand new to IU and brand new to higher ed. She says she was confused about what she was doing and where she was going nearly 100% of the time. Carrie Schwier (Outreach and Public Services Archivist) pretended not to notice and gently led Michelle through what she needed for one of the first projects Michelle did here.
Something she’s learned about IU by working in the Archives: Michelle might be native to this area – growing up in Spencer she always told everyone who asked she lived in Bloomington – but she didn’t know much at all about IU. Open-shelf access to the Arbutus year books and back issues of the Alumni magazine have helped her really understand the character of this special place. But, she has to say her biggest surprise was learning IU used to have some kind of river boat show (known as the Showboat Majestic). The Archives has a sign from the vessel in its reading room – you should check it out yourself!