For Amy Fels ’17, love of archiving grew in Ripon, thrives in Oshkosh

Some students come to Ripon College uncertain which career they should enter after their four years at the school. Not Amy Fels ’17.

“I came to Ripon wanting to study history and build a career in archives, but having the opportunity to work in the college archives confirmed my intuition that this career path was a calling, not simply a profession,” Fels says.

She’s turned that calling into a budding career as an archivist of the Oshkosh Public Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. While some may imagine working as an archivist involves unsatisfying work with dusty, old materials, Fels disagrees wholeheartedly.

“No two days of my role as an archivist are the same,” she said. “… Yes, I work with historical documents and photographs, but I’m simultaneously engaged with how Oshkosh’s past is connected to its present and future. The work I do today to care for the documents that tell the stories of the city of Oshkosh and its people will directly affect how it’s remembered decades from now. It’s both a daunting and exciting responsibility.”

Fels’ past and present are equally tied together, with the common thread being Ripon College.

“Professor (of History) Becky Matzke helped me get a summer internship at the Oshkosh Public Museum, which also fostered that same feeling,” Fels says. “As a senior, I was hesitant about attending graduate school, but both Becky and (Lane Library Director) Andy Prellwitz were hugely supportive of me taking that necessary step to continue to pursue my career goals. I wouldn’t be in this position today without their guidance and encouragement.”

She went on to receive a Masters of Arts in history, Master of Library and Information Studies with an Archives Specialization from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Now Fels is utilizing the talents she developed to find magic in documents of yesteryear. “Shortly after I came to staff at OPM, I was preparing a box of photographs for cataloging and came across a candid photo of a woman who was looking directly at the camera. In that moment, it felt like she was looking at me,” Fels says, “and I was suddenly acutely aware that I wasn’t just surrounded by boxes of old paper and film. I was surrounded by other people – their stories, their memories. The archives came alive for me that day, and I just knew I was where I was supposed to be.”

She means that, too. Though she’s just miles from Ripon College and early in her career, Fels doesn’t have any intention of going anywhere else anytime soon.

“It takes time to really get to know a collection, so I’m grateful to be in a position where I can plant some roots and grow both professionally and personally,” she said. “We have a lot of exciting plans for the future of OPM, and it’s energizing to be part of them, knowing they’ll have a positive impact on our community.”

Ian Stepleton ’98
Adjunct Instructor of Journalism

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