A Journey Back to VHS Tapes

A blast from the past describes my experience inventorying the Maria Pappas Papers at the Women and Leadership Archives. Although, a blast from a much more recent past than you may picture when you think of a historical archive. This inventory experience was like a journey back to my childhood. Inventorying the materials in an archival collection does not only mean combing through centuries old photos and letters. Sometimes it means cataloguing VHS tapes and CDs, which was my experience inventorying the audiovisual (AV) materials in the Maria Pappas Papers.

Various audiovisual items in the Pappas collection

Inventorying AV was different from my experiences inventorying other collections, which were mainly made up of written documents, correspondence, books, and photos. When I look through this material I am able to learn a bit about the people and stories in the collection. Inventorying the AV portion of the Maria Pappas Collection was a different experience, as I could only learn as I inventoried through the titles of CDs, audiocassettes, VHS tapes, and more unique AV material I have never seen before, like U-matic videocassettes and 1” open reel audio. To learn more about the contents of the materials I would have to play them, and archivists often avoid playing AV to help preserve them. You never know when playing a VHS tape if that is the last time it will play. This was the primary reason I was inventorying the AV materials, so we could digitize many of these items, making them more accessible. Fortunately, I was able to find out more about Maria Pappas through delving into her print documents in our collection.

Maria Pappas during a Greek Heritage parade, 2004

Maria Pappas was born in Warwood, West Virginia on June 7, 1949, to first generation Greek American parents. She is a lawyer and received many degrees, including a doctorate in Counseling and Psychology at Loyola University Chicago in 1976. She gained an interest in public service when she began working at the Altgeld Gardens public housing project in Chicago and ran a youth drug prevention program called the One Day One Drug Abuse Center. Testifying in court cases involving young people included visiting prisons and jails, an experience which led her to go to law school and consider public service. She ran for Cook County Commissioner in 1991 and was elected, then in 1998 ran for Cook County Treasurer and won. She made the Treasurer’s Office more efficient and technologically updated and was reelected five times in 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2019.  

Maria Pappas Cook County Treasurer campaign brochure

As a researcher I would love to learn more about Maria Pappas’ career through watching her audiovisual materials. One that particularly caught my eye when I was inventorying was a VHS tape titled “Treasurer Maria Pappas and her dog Koukla NBC”. Immediately I was intrigued. Why was Maria Pappas’ dog on NBC? I had to find more information about Koukla.

I was able to find some photos of Koukla in our collection which were super cute.


I was not able to find the video of Koukla and Maria Pappas on NBC online, so to find more information I turned to Google and found a Roll Call article discussing the 2008 Illinois Senate Race when Maria Pappas ran for Illinois State Senator and lost to Barack Obama.

Maria Pappas U.S. Senate campaign materials, 2008

The article states, “Pappas’ official biography notes that she plays the piano and is known for twirling a baton in area parades and competing in triathlons. She also carries a toy poodle, Koukla, in her purse” (Whittington). The article then goes on to quote David Axelrod, a media consultant to Barack Obama who said of Maria Pappas, “She twirls her baton and tours with her dog. But people like her. I don’t think people should underestimate her”. (Whittington). Relatedly, another VHS tape I inventoried was titled “Pappas Baton Twirling at Columbus Day Parade, Senate Candidate (1)”. This would be another great tape to view once it is digitized and see Pappas’ baton twirling in action. Finding more information about Koukla, and learning that Pappas would carry him in her purse, makes me excited to have this and other AV material digitized. Once these VHS tapes are digitized it will be much easier to send the video to researchers who request it. In the future these videos can be added to Preservica, and by searching the Women and Leadership Archives digital collection anyone can see Maria Pappas twirling her baton. We no longer need to lug out old technology, like the 1990s TV with a VHS player I watched The Lion King on as a kid, to see the adorable Koukla on video.

Koukla yawning


Whittington, Lauren. “Populist Pappas”. Roll Call, 9 September 2003. 


“About Maria”. Maria Pappas, Committee to Elect Maria Pappas, 2022. 


Max is a graduate assistant at the Women and Leadership Archives and a student in the History Master’s program at Loyola. For more information about this post, contact wlarchives@luc.edu.

Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Questions? Please contact the WLA at wlarchives@LUC.edu.

Neighborhood Negotiation: Rosehill Cemetery and the Sheli Lulkin Papers 

The Women and Leadership Archives hold the papers of Sheli Lulkin, a long-time organizer in Chicago’s northern neighborhoods. Lulkin moved to the Edgewater neighborhood in the late 1970s to pursue a doctorate in political science from Loyola University Chicago. She completed her coursework, but before finishing her dissertation she began community engagement within her condominium and around pressing issues in Edgewater. The first issue that she dedicated major time and effort to was the potential sale of land in Rosehill Cemetery.  

Sheli Lulkin and Mayor Richard M. Daley, undated. Sheli Lulkin papers.

In the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago is historic Rosehill Cemetery, located about a mile and a half southwest of Loyola. Rosehill was first established in 1859 as Chicago officials moved burials outside of city limits. Initial formal cemeteries in Chicago, established in the 1830s, were within city limits, but concerns with health and sanitation worsened by flooding and improper drainage ended municipal burials by the end of the Civil War. Bodies buried in modern-day Lincoln Park were moved to Rosehill Cemetery in the then-village of Lakeview. Chicago’s northern border grew over time to encapsulate the land, and today Rosehill is the largest cemetery in the city. It is also one of the oldest cemeteries in the city; early burial records no longer exist as they were stored in a Loop office and destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire. Those who did have to reinter their loved ones in Rosehill in the 1860s were anxious about further disturbances. These worries were soothed by the language of the cemetery’s charter, which asserted that the land was dedicated exclusively for burials in perpetuity. 

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A Future of Female Priests 

Allowing both women and married men to become priests is integral to FutureChurch’s mission. FutureChurch started in the 1990s to provide a solution for the shortage of priests in the Catholic Church and argues that opening the priesthood for more individuals who feel called to the priesthood would aid this shortage. A growth in inclusion and layperson involvement in the Church is another important goal of the organization. FutureChurch seeks “changes that will provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life, ministry, and governance”1. Looking through FutureChurch’s records in the Women and Leadership Archives, one can find resources and programs created by FutureChurch in the 1990s through the 2000s to reach Catholics and form community.    

“Dear Friend of Women in the Church”, Box 9 Folder 7 Packets: Advancing Women in Church Leadership, n.d.
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Caring for Your Personal Photographs 

Originally posted October 2015 on the WLA website. Updated February 2024. 

It may be hard to remember a time before digital photography, when all photographs were printed out. Since the mid-2000s, most of the photos we have taken are in digital form. However, almost every photo taken before that time had a physical print or two with negatives often stored alongside them. Do you have boxes of personal and family photos sitting in a closet in your home?  

Archivists often find photograph prints and negatives in the WLA collections and take steps to make sure these materials are preserved for generations of researchers to use. While you may not have climate-controlled storage areas and custom archival boxes, you can follow the same guidelines when handling and storing your photos to keep your memories safe. 

Do you have photographs that resemble these from the Mundelein College Photograph Collection? Lake Geneva Leadership Weekend, 1980, Box 49, Folder 13.

Water, and Humidity, and Insects – Oh My!      

The first task for storing photographs is to find a suitable environment. The key is to avoid areas with high temperatures and high relative humidity. Those conditions cater to the growth of mold and mildew and increase the rate of deterioration. The optimal temperature would be 68 degrees, but it is key to keep the temperature consistently below 75 degrees.  

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