Mary Brown Craig—IU’s first archivist

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20201203tp history column Mary Brown1 Submitted

By Nancy Noel | For The Times-Post

Indiana University’s first archivist is a woman who spent nearly 35 years of her life collecting, recording, filing and preserving the history of Indiana University, making a living documenting the lives of others — yet her own story is elusive in her hometown of Pendleton.

Mary Brown was born in 1907 in Pendleton.

Mary’s senior photo is in the 1925 issue of Papyrus, the school yearbook, along with pictures of the rest of her graduating class.

She was editor-in-chief of Papyrus and associate editor of another publication, Annual.

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Mary is mentioned throughout the 1925 edition of Papyrus.

For instance, the “Panorama of the Senior Class” recounts an inter-class basketball tournament that the seniors won “largely due to the backing of the senior girls, who we feel sure are the best sports in school.” The senior girls hosted a party for the players at Mary’s house to celebrate the victory.
A page titled “The Line-Up” in the yearbook shows a chart with each senior, followed by the categories “Wants To Be,” “Chief Characteristic,” “Pastime” and “As He Sees Himself.”
Mary listed herself as wanting to be a “newspaper reporter,” her chief characteristic as “knowledge,” her pastime was “chewing gum” and saw herself as “industrious.”
Mary studied math in college. She attended Swarthmore College for two years, transferred to Indiana University, and finished her bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1929.
Rather than pursuing a career in math, however, she became a cataloger in the IU library.
She must have found something she enjoyed in this job, because soon after she earned a library science degree from Columbia University in 1932.
In 1934, Mary married E. Lingle Craig, for whom the IU Libraries Preservation Laboratory is named. Craig graduated from IU and spent his entire career working for the university.
Mary stepped into her most well-known role as the university’s first archivist in 1943, when she was given reign over a central depository for the records of IU in the President’s File Room.
She stayed in this position for the next 34 years, retiring in 1977. She died in 1981.
The names of many others in Brown’s class of 1925 might be familiar: Reva Beckner, Mabel Brattain, Maxine Cook, Miriam Cox, Ruby Davis, Lucile Ellsworth, Floyd Faust, Florence Franklin, Kenneth Haines, Mary B. Haines, Ebert Hendry, Francis Hinkle, Helen Jenkins, Edith Kiphart, Verle McCarty, Clifford Michael, Murray Michael, Nelle Newton, Paul Noland, Robert Perry, Laura Poor, Robert Poor, Howard Pritchard, Horace Rider, Horace Somers, Geneva Vernon and Hilda Wildridge.
Nancy Noel is president of the Pendleton Historical Museum board.