Final Anne-swers

Archivist, at Retirement, Looks Back at Looking Back

“Ask Anne” isn’t just an invitation. It’s been a tradition at Terp and at Maryland, where for 32 years, University Archivist Anne Turkos was the chief keeper of the institution’s history.

Alumni, faculty, staff and students turned to her with their UMD-related queries, from the kooky to the common, the intriguing to the intimate. She and her staff have scoured microfilm, yearbooks, photos, documents and many other kinds of sources to piece together answers and ultimately color in the details of the past.

Turkos shifted into semi-retirement—or “rewirement,” as she’s been calling it—over the summer; she’s not about to walk away from projects in progress such as the digitization of The Diamondback and old football and basketball films. But she did stop to share the backstories behind some of her favorite questions.

The One That Got Away

That was a question about the pendulum that used to hang in Kirwan Hall back in the ’70s and early ’80s. If you walk into the lobby, you’ll still see the fancy mosaic tile work in the floor where the pendulum hung. But students used to steal it all the time, and the math department got tired of replacing it or trying to track it down, so they finally took it down and took it away, and where the pendulum is today nobody knows. I thought it was a great question. We talked to I don’t how many people. Is it in somebody’s basement? Is it tucked into some corner of the Math Building? We don't know.

The One She Thought Was Weird

The weirdest question was about a cow that was kidnapped from the campus farm back in the ’60s, then put in an elevator in a high-rise dorm. The poor cow rode right up and down and was frightened to death and made a mess. The Diamondback wrote about it, and someone (decades later) wanted us to find that story. We spent a long time going through the microfilm to find it. Now with the digitization of The Diamondback, we’re going to be able to find the answer to those kinds of questions very quickly, or the person who’s asking can do the research for him- or herself.

The One She Gets Most Often

We probably get the most questions about Testudo: How did they choose a diamondback terrapin to become the mascot? Where did this diamondback terrapin—because of course we have the real Testudo in the Archives—come from? How long did it live? How old was it when it died? What we call the original Testudo is a diamondback terrapin that’s been taxidermied like a fish or a deer head and mounted on a board. That terrapin was the model for the statue and was responsible for unveiling it. I tell all the students who come to work for us if there’s ever a fire in this building, that’s the first thing that goes out.

The One That Still Makes Her Tear Up

One of the most emotional questions was when a gentleman called and asked us if there was a picture of a particular woman in a 1950s yearbook. We found the yearbook, and we told him that it was there, and he said, “I'll be there in 10 minutes.” Well, that picture was his birth mother. He had been adopted, and was on this journey to find her. Yearbook pictures are voluntary, so a lot of times we can’t fulfill that kind of request. But that particular day, we made that man’s world, and it was really terrific.

Hear Turkos talk about the question that generated the biggest response from alumni:


Megan Brewer

Im pretty sure the cow in the DBK story did not die! But she did leave quite a mess!

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