Trust employees receive USOC training to preserve American rugby artifacts

In the back corner of the cold, cavernous USA Rugby warehouse, stacked unceremoniously on several shelves lays a treasure trove of American rugby history that has gone uncatalogued for years. That's all about to change, thanks to a new effort by the USA Rugby Trust.

United States Olympic Committee Archivist and Historical Steward Teri Hedgepeth visited the USA Rugby offices in Boulder, Colo., March 2 and helped train Trust staff on cataloging, protecting and storing the many valuable artifacts collected by USA Rugby over its 40 year history.

Hedgepeth helped create a computer database that the Trust will use to catalog its historical rugby artifacts. She instructed the employees on handling artifacts, labeling them and photographing them for a complete record.

"By doing this you are preserving your organization's history," Hedgepeth said. "You can record facts and figures, but this is another aspect of your history to preserve for future generations or to help promote your history."

Hedgepeth is hoping to help promote USA Rugby's history at the USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., by displaying several rugby artifacts as part of a display on the sports to be included in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The artifacts in the possession of USA Rugby vary from trophies and plaques to signed jerseys and World Cup balls.

One of the largest sources for artifacts is from one of USA Rugby's founders Ed Lee, whose estate donated a cache of amazing rugby memorabilia from his time as the coach of Princeton Rugby through his involvement with USA Rugby. A portion of this collection is already on loan to Princeton University.

"You guys have this great collection and it is so important to preserve it," Hedgepeth said. "There are items here that you simply cannot replace."

Current USA Rugby Trust intern Jeff Hall will take the lead on cataloging, organizing and properly storing the USA Rugby collection. Hedgepeth plans to make a return trip this spring to assist the Trust as it works to catalog its large amount of historical artifacts.

One the Trust's first challenges was to properly protect items from the elements. An active leak in our warehouse roof was discovered during the USOC visit. Fortunately, the leak was caught early and there was minimal damage. However, the Trust did not have the money immediately available to purchase boxes or bins to move the artifacts into. That is when local Boulder, Colo., business McGuckin Hardware came to the rescue.

McGuckin Hardware donated 40 plastic bins that the Trust will transfer its collection into to protect it from further water damage.

McGuckin Marketing Manager Louise Garrels, who arranged for the donation, said donating to local non-profits has been a part of the business's culture for its 60 year history.

"We like to donate in a way that directly benefits a program," Garrels said. "You're also our neighbor and we wanted to do our part and be good neighbors. You have a great mission and you're somewhat of an unsung hero in the world of athletics."

This donation is the first step in properly protecting USA Rugby's collection.

There will undoubtedly be more challenges to come as the Trust begins to organize these artifacts, but Hedgepeth says the biggest challenge for any organization beginning to archive a collection is resources.

"Resources are the number-one challenge, in the form of time, money and people," Hedgepeth said. "Everyone wants to do it. The question is do you have the resources?"

In order to properly preserve its artifacts, Hedgepeth said the Trust will need acid free pens, acid free folders and boxes to store documents, large amounts of tissue paper to wrap artifacts in, tags to mark the artifacts and eventually proper display cases.

If you would like to support the USA Rugby Trust as it embarks on a mission to catalog and protect American rugby history, consider giving a tax-deductible gift today. Unrestricted gifts are the most impactful because they are able to be directed to wherever the need is greatest, like to this effort to preserve USA Rugby artifacts.