Archivist helps researchers and students see into the past

"Sarah Gard"

Sarah D’Antonio Gard  | Senior Archivist  | Dole Institute of Politics 

When researchers study history, they rely on primary source material to inform their work. Without archivists like Sarah D’Antonio Gard, these documents would not be available.

Gard is the senior archivist and head of collections at the Robert & Elizabeth Dole Archives & Special Collections. She has worked at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, which houses the collections, since January 2012.

“Sarah is the conduit for researchers and the super interesting yet vast Dole Congressional Archives. Even if researchers are unsure what connections they will find, she assists with keyword search, database assistance, and also a caring smile if they come to visit in person,” said Julie Clover, public education manager at the Dole Institute.

“Sarah’s 11 years of knowledge as an archivist here at the Dole Institute is essential for a well-utilized collection,” Clover said.

Following his last presidential campaign in 1996, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole donated his congressional papers to KU. The collection of documents spans more than 35 years of American history and includes items such as constituent letters, speech transcripts, draft legislation and more. The papers were housed in KU’s Spencer Research Library until the Dole Institute opened in 2003. In 2017, Sen. Elizabeth Dole donated her career papers, which span her public service as commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Secretary of Labor, president of the American Red Cross, and a U.S. senator representing the state of North Carolina.

Gard and her colleagues ensure these documents remain available for future generations to see. She oversees the storage space in the Institute’s basement, which is kept at specific temperatures and humidity levels to slow the aging of the paper. She also leads a team of two assistant archivists and several student assistants in digitizing these collections so those who cannot travel to Lawrence can still learn from the archives.

When researchers do visit in person, Gard makes sure they have what they need to complete their work.

“Sarah is extremely responsive and helpful. I don't work with primary source documents like this in my own research, and so her expertise was crucial,” said David Slusky, professor of economics.

Slusky takes students in his first-year seminar to learn about the history of American health care policy. Gard and her colleagues pull boxes of documents on then-Congressman Dole’s vote on the 1965 Social Security Amendments that established Medicaid and Medicare. The archives team also created a webpage for the class showcasing a survey of different document types related to the vote.

“Multiple students in the class ended up working for the Dole Institute, both on the archival side with Sarah and on the events side with her colleagues,” Slusky said. “I am so appreciative for the warm and welcoming environment she created for these new students during the very beginning of their time at KU.”