Volunteer Spotlight: Marian Dressler

A retired UMaine employee helps process archival material

Retired UMaine employee Marian Dressler didn’t have much experience working with archives, but a chance encounter with Fogler Library staff three years ago led to Dressler taking on a volunteer role in the Special Collections department.

Dressler, who serves on the President’s Council of Retired Employees at UMaine, had been working on an oral history project in conjunction with All Maine Women. Through this project, Dressler had a chance to work with archival material held by Special Collections.

“I’ve always been interested in work in the library,” says Dressler. “I didn’t know a lot about Special Collections, but I thought it would be interesting based on what I was finding out when I was doing the oral history project.”

Since then, Dressler has volunteered her time weekly helping to organize and catalog some of the many original materials held in Fogler Library’s climate controlled storage facility. Dressler helps organize and process archival materials held by Special Collections. In particular, Dressler works regularly with the University Archive, where she has helped process items in a variety of collections including the Office of the President records and the Women in Curriculum records.   

Special Collections University Archivist Matthew Revitt says that volunteers like Dressler fill a critical need in the department. Organizing materials helps archivists in the department respond to research requests more quickly. Volunteers also help preserve materials by ensuring they’re properly stored in ways that prevent degradation.

“We rely on students and volunteers,” says Revitt. “Without them, a lot of this work wouldn’t happen, because we need people to do the physical work of organizing material into acid free storage and entering information into our archival software database. It’s allowed us to do some other activities to make the material more discoverable.”

Dressler’s work in the archives at Fogler Library have brought her in close contact with a number of topics, but the items she finds particularly interesting are those that touch on her own experiences at UMaine.

“When I worked in the Buchanan Alumni house, they had a whole music room dedicated to Rudy Vallee,” says Dressler. “And now I actually could see letters that he wrote and letters that were written to him by the president at the time. It was just kind of interesting for me to see.”

“But the other part of that is that some of the people who have been a part of my life have come into play in some of these collections. The Women in Curriculum records was one in particular because I took several classes and I recognized a lot of the names and the different classes they were part of.”

In addition to her work at Fogler Library, Marian has been an active volunteer for UMaine Athletics and at the Buchanan Alumni House. In 2016, she was the recipient of the Barbara Hikel Retiree Award, which is awarded to a retiree who demonstrates exceptional voluntary service to the University during retirement. For Dressler, volunteer work allows her to stay actively involved in the University. Her experiences at Fogler Library and across campus have given her a chance to engage with new people and groups at UMaine.

“I think that once you retire, you lose some of the socialization [of campus],” says Dressler. “So I enjoy coming back here to do various things. I knew nothing about libraries, and I’ve been amazed at what they hold and what they represent.”

This story was originally featured in the 2019 Raymond H. Fogler Library Magazine.