The Historical Initiative
Preserving the Legacy of Brotherhood
In 2005, Sigma Chi achieved a significant milestone as the Fraternity gathered in Cincinnati to celebrate its 150th anniversary. While Sigs honored our Founders and the legacy of the nearly 300,000 men who have joined our brotherhood since its inception, a smaller group of men also assembled. Their mission was to assure that the memory of that legacy would not be lost — this was the genesis of The Sigma Chi Historical Initiative. Under the direction of 20th Grand Historian and Order of Constantine Sig Eric Hansen, CINCINNATI 1989, the members of the archives committee and historical commission formulated a plan to inspect, preserve, catalogue and, where appropriate, digitize the nearly 750,000 historical documents and artifacts comprising the historical collections of the Sigma Chi International Fraternity.
The work on the Initiative commenced in June 2005 with the hiring of Archivist Noah Phelps, NORTHWESTERN 2008. At the Initiative's inception, the archivist created a plan to achieve this monumental task and is moving that plan forward with the help of interns from the public history program at Loyola University Chicago. To date, the Initiative has catalogued and seen to the preservation needs of nearly 15,000 artifacts, including 6,400 documents and over 8,000 photographs. Approximately 5,000 of these items have been digitized for quick and efficient distribution to the staff of Sigma Chi International Headquarters, and to members who request historical information.
The goals of the Initiative do not end with simple preservation, and were not designed to strictly benefit Headquarters. Ultimately, the Initiative's goal is to make these resources available to the men who are the foundation of the Fraternity, the undergraduate brothers. To this end, we have developed a set of complementary goals to achieve this.
First, a website was created at history.sigmachi.org to allow members to see what the Historical Initiative is doing and provide an access point to Sigma Chi’s historical resources. The website contains simple lists of information and responses to frequently-asked historical questions, and keeps undergraduates abreast of the various projects underway in the Initiative. Order of Constantine Sig and 21st Grand Historian Dr. Bill Fleming, SAM HOUSTON 1965, contributes a quarterly Grand Historian’s newsletter to the site. Other members of the archives committee and history commission ahve agreed to contribute content to its stores, as well.
Along with historical information, the website will also offer a link to ΣΧ Codex, the digital library portal of the Sigma Chi Historical Initiative. ΣΧ Codex is an online catalogue of historical items in the collection. It houses documents and photographs in addition to museum items such as the badge of President Grover Cleveland, MICHIGAN 1915, the 1940 World Series uniform of Significant Sig Bill Werber, DUKE 1930, and original artwork from artists such as Order of Constantine Sig and Significant Sig Milton Caniff, OHIO STATE 1930, and Significant Sig John T. McCutcheon, PURDUE 1889.
The catalogue allows member to search for specific items, or to simply browse its collection. So if any members are wondering if that rather embarrassing picture of them in the Homecoming parade is still here, they can search for it and find out. Finally, the Initiative created an electronic document distribution tool that allows members to search issues of The Magazine of Sigma Chi and The Sigma Chi Bulletin — as well as the wealth of other documents in the archives — and download them via the Internet. ΣΧ Codex was released at the 2011 Grand Chapter in Dallas and is now available on the Initiative's website.
The ongoing effort at preservation is a major undertaking and will continue for a number of years. With the support of the Sigma Chi Foundation, the Sigma Chi Historical Initiative continues to move forward. We welcome your interest and your support.
To visit the Historical Initiative's website, click here.