A handful of Casper historians are worried about Casper College’s Western History Center, which will be without an archivist beginning in July.
Long-time collection archivist Vince Crolla is among eight staff members who will be laid off from the college come July 1. The college announced the layoffs in February but did not specify which positions would be cut.
While the collection will remain at the college, community historians have raised concerns about the college’s ability to maintain it without an archivist. Several opponents of the move testified before the College Board of Trustees in a meeting Tuesday.
Those present included representatives from the Nicolaysen Art Museum, Fort Caspar, the county historical and archaeological societies, the National Historic Trails interpretive Center, and several others.
Casper College has hired a consultant from the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center to review the collection and the policies and procedures by which it is managed, Vice President of Academic Affairs Brandon Kosine told the group.
The consultant will have a full report to present to trustees by late May, Kosine said.
Several residents who testified Tuesday predicted that report will confirm the need for an archivist at the Western History Center.
The collection holds 8,000 books and periodicals, half a million photos, a deep record of obituaries for Natrona County residents, and archives for the Casper Star-Tribune and Casper Journal, among other historical documents.
“We fear if you back away from having professional staff running (the archive) we don’t see how the collection can keep from deteriorating,” Tom Rea, a local historian and founder of WyoHistory.org, told trustees Tuesday.
Kem Nicolaysen, president of the Natrona County Historical Society, read a letter written by Leslie Waggner, president of the state historical society.
“This collection represents the cultural heritage of Casper and Natrona County. That at least is worth taking seriously by keeping a trained archivist overseeing” the collection, Waggner wrote in that letter.
Johanna Wickman, vice president of the Fort Caspar Museum Association, told trustees if they did not plan to reinstate the archivist position, the collection should be moved.
“These are one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable collections that need to be kept here in Casper,” Wickman said. “I highly urge you to reconsider keeping an archivist position and if that’s not something the college is willing to do … then I also highly suggest you start looking for an alternative place to keep it because it deserves that kind of attention.”
Those who testified acknowledged the college’s difficult budget situation. The school saw a 10% cut to its budget this summer along with state agencies, the university and the state’s other community colleges.
Vice Chair of the board of trustees Steve Degenfelder referenced budget cuts in his short response to the public. He added that trustees don’t necessarily make decisions about individual staff members but said trustees would consider the testimony heard Tuesday.
The next board meeting is 7 p.m., May 18 in room 312 of the Walter H. Nolte Gateway Center.
Follow health and education reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @m0rgan_hughes