Remembering Virginia Krumholz

A guest post Fred Lautzenheiser


Virginia Martin was born in 1931 in Evansville, Indiana, the daughter of an Episcopal priest, who moved around the Midwest as his assignments changed. According to an article by Pierre Clavel, Virginia and Norman Krumholz married when he was in graduate school at Cornell in the early 60s.  They had two sons (one of whom predeceased Virginia) and a daughter.  They eventually moved to Cleveland where Professor Krumholz taught in the school of urban affairs at Cleveland State University and served as a well-known advisor on urban planning.

Virginia was always interested in things historical, including archives.  She would be fascinated by this type of thing on trips to Europe and elsewhere.  Norman recalled a vacation in  Jamaica when  Virginia did not participate in any of the normal tourist activities – swimming, carriage rides, sunbathing,  shopping, etc.  All she did was visit historic places and look at antique documents.

Virginia received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in 1952.   She completed the archives program at Case Western Reserve University under Mrs. Ruth Helmuth’s direction and in 1975 received her M.A. in history with a specialization in archival administration.  She augmented this formal education by earning certificates of training at the annual CWRU Archival Administration Workshops in the years 1974 through 1978.  She also earned certificates from American Records Managers and Administrators (now ARMA) in the years 1976 and 1985.

Her career was intertwined with the rise of archival repositories in the Cleveland area, and in several cases she either established archives or upgraded them to professional status.  She was retained as a staff archivist by her mentor, Ruth Helmuth, in the CWRU University Archives, from November 1974 to 1977.  From 1977 to the spring of 1979 she was Assistant to the University Archivist.

In 1979 Virginia was engaged by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland  to organize their records, which had been stored in the Chancery since 1870, and to train a new archivist, Christine Krosel, for the Diocesan Archives. She was originally hired for three years but stayed four, until 1982.  In 1984 she returned as director of  the Corporate Records Project for the Catholic Press Union (including the Universe Bulletin and  the two other Catholic newspapers in northeast Ohio), from 1985 to 1987.  At the same time she was working on organizing an archives consortium for the Associated Colleges of Cleveland.  This group consisted of the five Catholic institutions of higher learning in the diocese.

She went across the park to found the archives of the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1988.  With the Museum’s 75th anniversary coming in 1991, they wanted a professional archivist, for which the Gund Foundation provided a grant. Virginia established the archives and the nationally recognized records management program.  She carried out the original organization of the collections, which in turn made possible the published museum histories: Object Lessons: Cleveland Creates an Art Museum and Cleveland Builds an Art Museum: Patronage, Politics, and Architecture 1884-1916.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History had an archives beginning in 1982 but needed a new professional when its second archivist, Anita Weber, left for Washington DC in 1996, and Virginia stepped up to the plate.  She arrived in 1997 and placed the archives on a firm footing, remaining there until the end of 2003.  Evie Newell, the succeeding archivist, wrote up a document, “Pearls from Virginia,” which among other things enumerated the three principal things which Virginia believed an archives should do:  facilitate research, preserve the validity of the archival holdings, and preserve their context.

The archives of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, located at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland, had been in existence for quite a long time, but as in the case of the Catholic archives, had never had a professional archivist at its head.  Virginia came on as assistant to the longstanding archivist, and when he retired she became head of archives, remaining in that position until she became ill and had to resign.  She worked well with her predecessor and was respectful of what he had done.  Having been a member of the Episcopal Church, she was already versed in its history and could answer many reference questions from her own experience and knowledge.

Virginia was a consultant  either formally or informally for a number of different archives in the area.  Her strong personality left no doubt about where she stood on any given topic.  Her loyalty to the institution for which she worked was absolutely unassailable, and in this respect she brought forward the view of the founding father Hilary Jenkinson.  She followed strict rules for admitting researchers and for allowing archival information, whether textual or audiovisual,  to be let out.  She also used terms and definitions with care. I was swiftly corrected one day when in passing I used the expression “institutional archives” – I was informed that it was redundant and therefore not good to use the adjective “institutional” because these ARE archives.  If they aren’t “institutional” they are not archives, but collections of another sort.


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