If you’re a longtime Survey enthusiast, you probably know that the electronically delivered E-Geo News is not the first iteration of a Survey newsletter. What you might not know is that Survey newsletters, in the paper form, date back at least 60 years. A new institutional history collection on IGWS Digital Collections gives readers a glimpse into the work and social lives of Survey employees between 1962 and 1985.

IGWS Digitization Imaging Specialist Kristen Wilkins has been enjoying learning about Survey life through this historical source. She wrote the following:

“In our earliest years, Annual Reports are our only record of what the Survey was doing. Later, while partnered with the IU Geology Department, Survey activities were somewhat covered by department newsletters beginning in the 1950s. It wasn’t until the early 1960s the Survey took to authoring their own letter. It was not continuously published, and eventually evolved into a different kind of publication more appropriate for public release. Before that evolution, we have a few dozen documents that present a buffet of tidbits that hint at what employee life was like in those years.

“These newsletters include the names and bios of new staff, changes in the facilities, and accomplishments of the Survey, as you would expect. But they also include “fun facts” that make them a joy to read. Example: ‘Tom Dawson and Jerry Carpenter went fishing on December 2 during the warm weather. The fish were not at all cooperative, however, for the boys had nary a nibble.’ (IGWS Archives, The Survey Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 4., p. 2)

“In addition to a lot of fishy stories, they also contain technical overviews of now-extinct technology, which can help us understand how they were doing things. This bit about our elevator – which is still prone to stop working without notice – is example of how the more things change, the more they stay the same:

‘We are all fond of the new passenger elevator, but most of us are guilty of a careless habit that might render the new “space” vehicle interoperative. When you wish to hold the door open for a lady with a baby or for a friend, push the “open door” button on the control panel. To catch the doors as they close and hold them open momentarily in order to get on or off of the elevator does no damage at all, but to stand in the doorway and hold the doors open while you finish your conversation with friends or associates is a dangerous practice—dangerous to the operating mechanism. When held open forcibly, the door-closing mechanism keeps trying to do its job and often some of the small relays in the system will malfunction and the elevator won't work.’ (IGWS Archives, The Survey Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 5., p. 2)

“The newsletters also describe everyone’s family news, vacations, and illnesses. Apparently, after moving into the newly completed Survey wing, the third floor was struck by a string of illness and bad luck:

‘The Coal Section has had a staggering record of illnesses and injuries for the first 6 weeks of their occupancy of the new building. There have been six cases of measles, four of mumps, six of the flu, one of chicken pox, three of pinkeye, one pulled thigh muscle, one cut foot (requiring four stitches), one cut heel (no shoe for 2 1/2 weeks), and one unidentified disease.’ (IGWS Archives, The Survey Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 5., p. 4)”

To take your own meander into Survey history, visit the newsletter collection by clicking here.

If you have any old Survey newsletters, please contact Kristen to offer copies. She knows of at least nine missing from the Survey’s files that should be added to the collection currently posted.