Monday, June 28, 2010

Emmy Winner!

On Saturday, June 26, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences held its 36th presentation of the Southeast Regional EMMY Awards in Atlanta. UGA came up a winner for its work on the program Andrew Young Presents: How We Got Over, which showcases the Civil Rights Digital Library and the role archives play in preserving the past. The program was recognized in the category of Outstanding Achievement: Television Crafts Achievement Excellence, Technical Achievement. Individuals included in the entry were: Andrew Young, CB Hackworth, James Benyshek, Barbara McCaskill, Ruta Abolins, Scott Auerbach, Toby Graham, Christina Davis, Mary Boyce Hicks, Lauren Chambers, Stacie L. Walker, Anthony Omerikwa, Kendra Abercrombie, Jack English, Ray Moore, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Andrea Young, Margie Compton, Craig Breaden, Russ Jamieson, Courtney Thomas, Aggie Ebrahimi, and J.D. Brandon.

It is due to the gracious support of Ambassador Young and director CB Hackworth, who have a deep understanding and appreciation for our special collections, that the UGA Libraries received such recognition. While CB went on to win two other EMMYs, this one, he said, was the one he really wanted.

Above: Russell Library's Head of Media and Oral History, Craig Breaden, basking in the glow of EMMY. For more images of UGA award winners, CLICK HERE.

Post by Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History, Russell Library.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight

Michelle Colquitt

Hometown: Winterville, GA

Volunteer Period: Started in May 2010

A.A. Paralegal Studies, Athens Technical College (2003)
B.S. Pre-Law/History minor, Emmanuel College (2006)
MLIS, Valdosta State University (expected 2012)

What am I doing here at the Russell Library?

I attended a field trip with my VSU Preservation class. This entailed learning about preservation at the Main Library at UGA and also archival work at the Russell Library. The presentation was about moving to the new special collections building. I wanted to help out and the rest is history!

I have been preparing the Zell Miller plaque/award collection for the move. This involves boxing the plaques up and making sure they won't be harmed in the moving process. I also shelf read and organized some of Senator Russell's books.

I knew I was a sucker for history when...
I've always been fascinated by the past. Two circumstances really shaped my love of history. (1) Being a student in Mr. Charles Corbett's eighth grade Georgia History class at Hart County Middle School, and (2) Taking a trip to the Biltmore Estate at age 14 with my family. It fascinated me to learn about the history of the Vanderbilt family and also the everyday people who had transformed the city of Asheville.

The best part of volunteering so far...

The best part of volunteering has been getting involved with a library again! I worked for the ATC Library while getting my associate's degree, but it has been about six years since I have worked in a library. The work is very fulfilling, and I feel as if I am making a contribution.

If I wasn't spending my time in the archives, my alter ego would be pursuing a career in...
Well, my alter ego is a Juvenile Probation Officer here in Athens, GA. I work at Juvenile Court as the intake officer -- so I carry a case load of about 40 juvenile offenders. I make contracts, provide referral to services, and monitor compliance with court ordered conditions. I'm also the Intake Officer and determine whether or not youth should be "locked up" for certain offenses. Oh! And, i'm a student trying to get my Master's Degree!

On my days off you will find me...
On my days off - I'm here at the Russell Library! On the weekends, I am usually hanging out with my family and friends. I try to squeeze in time for leisure reading but have had lots of school reading lately.

In five year I see myself...
I hope to be putting my MLIS degree to good use. I don't care how or where - I just want to be a librarian. The best job I ever had was working as a Student Library Assistant at Athens Technical College. I loved helping the patrons increase their knowledge and the library environment was very peaceful and calm.

Birdie Miller Papers Open

The Richard B. Russell Library is pleased to announce the opening of the Birdie Byran Miller Papers. This collection documents Miller’s life and career in Young Harris, Georgia, where she taught at Young Harris College and was active in local politics, including twice serving as mayor of the town and sitting on the city council.

The collection includes personal files that consist of clippings, correspondence, and civic records as well as certificates, clippings and campaign material pertaining to her son, former Georgia Governor and United States Senator Zell Miller. The collection also includes items that belonged to her late husband, Stephen Grady Miller, including his diplomas from Young Harris College and King’s College of the University of London, postcards and photographs from his service in World War I, and material from his time in the Georgia State Senate in the 1927-1928 session.

The Russell Library is open for research from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, with the exception of University holidays. For further information on the Birdie Byran Miller Papers please contact or call (706) 542-5788.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Artist in Vietnam

The Christopher Fleming Collection of Jon Nielsen Visual Materials is now open for viewing at the Richard B. Russell Library!

Jon Nielsen (1912-1986) was a Danish-American artist, illustrator and portraitist who illustrated over 200 children’s books and textbooks, and whose career spanned over 35 years. Nielsen graduated from the prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He was an avid world traveler, spending a year in France illustrating a language textbook, and at one point embarking on a one-month safari in Zambia to make woodcuts of the native animals for the Zambian government.

In the 1960s, Nielsen was asked by the U.S. State Department to travel to Vietnam and entertain the soldiers by sketching portraits. While there, he took many photographs of both the American military presence and the daily lives of the Vietnamese people. The collection contains 70 of these photographs, as well as six originals of his elegantly simplistic ink drawings. One such drawing was featured on the cover of Nielsen’s book, “Artist in South Vietnam.” Nielsen also created the children’s book “The Wishing Pearl and Other Tales of Vietnam” with his wife, Kay.

The Russell Library is open for research from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, with the exception of University holidays. For further information on the Christopher Fleming Collection of Jon Nielsen Visual Materials, please contact or call (706) 542-5788.

Post by Heather Highfield, Summer Intern, Russell Library

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Appeal for Justice

The Richard B. Russell Library is pleased to announce that the Lorena Weeks Files related to Weeks v. Southern Bell are now open for research.

In 1947, Lorena Weeks went to work for Southern Bell Telephone Company as an operator. Twenty years later, she applied for a promotion at her longtime employer, for the position of a switchman, which promised an increase in pay and a significantly shorter commute to work. Despite her seniority with the company, she was denied the promotion because she was a woman and it was a job reserved for men. Weeks knew about the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed by President Lyndon Johnson and felt that Southern Bell had violated her rights under the law, which specified that an employer could not discriminate on the basis of sex. Although she initially lost the case, she appealed, and with the help of National Organization of Women (NOW) attorney Sylvia Roberts, brought her case before Judge Griffin Bell in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Weeks finally won her case on appeal in 1969. She became a switchman at Southern Bell, a position she held until her retirement in 1983 after more than thirty years of service to the company. Above: Image of Lorena Weeks in her position as a switchman in Wadley, Georgia

This small collection contains materials pertaining to Lorena Weeks’s sex discrimination case against Southern Bell Telephone Company. Types of materials include correspondence, court documents, interview transcripts, clippings, flyers, and one photograph.

Left: Ms. Weeks posed with a sign advertising her oral history screening at the Russell Library.

The Russell Library is open for research from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, with the exception of University holidays. For further information on the Lorena Weeks Files related to Weeks v. Southern Bell, contact or call (706) 542-5788.

Intern Spotlight

Introducing our newest intern...

Heather Highfield

Hicksville, New York

Internship Period:
Summer 2010

What am I doing here at the Russell Library?
I wanted some hands-on experience in archives, and I have librarian relatives here in Athens who connected me to the folks at Russell. So far, I’ve been writing finding aids for some of the smaller collections, rehousing original Baldy cartoons, and other interesting and challenging odds and ends.

Education: B.A. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, with a major in English and minor in Japanese. MSLIS expected in 2011 from Syracuse University.

I knew I was a sucker for history when...
I started taking classes like Old English Literature and History of Language in college. I loved learning about the evolution of language and writing. My professor always brought in fascinating old documents like pictures of illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages. Later, in library school, we got to see real cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls when we learned about the history of information. I was never a history major, but the historical elements of my major were always my favorite parts.

The best part of my internship so far…
I’ve gotten to work with some really great original artwork and photography, which is always a treat for me. The best part so far, though, has been researching all the subjects of my collections to write biographical and historical notes. At the end of a day, not only do I have something real to show for my work, but I’ve learned a handful of things I didn’t know about before.

If I wasn’t spending time in the archives, my alter ego would be pursuing a career in… Illustration. Hopefully when I get out of grad school I’ll be able to blow the dust off all my art supplies and get back into drawing!

On days off, I’ll be… Learning woodcarving in my dad’s workshop, covered in sawdust, or trying to figure out knitting. In any case, you’ll find me indoors – I’m no match for these Georgia summers!

In five years I see myself… Managing the local history department in a public library, ideally. I like the smaller scale of special collections, but at the same time I like being able to talk to lots of people in a day. There’s no telling where I’ll settle, though – I move around a lot!

*Special Note: Heather's cool yet casual pose in the photo above was aided by a cigar from the Herman Talmadge Collection and the gentle prodding of members of the Russell Staff.*

Monday, June 21, 2010

Time Well Spent

For days 7, 8, and 9 of my Georgia Archives Institute I was an intern at the National Archives Southeast Regional Branch in Atlanta. Seated next door to the Georgia Archives, NARA moved into this space in 2005. The facility is new and very nice, and has ample space for meetings and other public programs (which always catches my eye), as well as seemingly endless storage space. All told the facility has four storage bays with a combined capacity of 200,000 cubic feet.

NARA houses series of records, not collections. According to the main website, of all documents and materials created by the federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that the NARA keeps them forever. In compliance with a set schedule, records are transferred from the creating body to federal record centers and then on to various regional branches throughout the country. NARA Atlanta is home to records relating to the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The nature of these collections is quite different from the manuscript collections at the Russell Library, and the processes used to arrange and describe them is also quite a bit different. That aside, I still learned a good deal during my three days at NARA. My classmate Melissa and I were ably guided/supervised by Rob Richards, one of the archivists on staff. Rob was generous with his time and made sure that we had a great experience. He fielded every question we threw his way, addressed our individual interests (when possible), and showed us every nook and cranny in the building. So thanks Rob!

To begin, let me tell you about our project. Rob pulled two boxes of customs house records from Mobile, Alabama, ranging in date from 1826-1906, related to legal matters. Melissa and I spent a day and a half going through all the folders. We arranged the correspondence chronologically and re-housed everything in acid free, legal size folders. When we came across particularly delicate items, we placed them in plastic sleeves. When we came across particularly dirty documents, or those which could in some way be damaging to other items in the folder, we separated them using acid free paper. And finally, we moved everything into new legal sized archival boxes. The legal sized envelopes and boxes allowed us to remedy some crowding issues, as many of the documents had been folded previously in order to fit into smaller folders. Through this process we were able to create a better micro-environment for the records.

Rob told us to move through the folders at our own pace and insert place holders around any items that might be of particular value to researchers. Because these were customs records from the early 19th century, he mentioned specifically that items relating to the slave trade would be interesting to note. Most of the documents were correspondence between the U.S. Treasury and customs officials in Mobile regarding debts of various individuals and reports of various customs violations. Reports noted offenses like mail theft, assault and battery on the high seas, mutiny, and illegal slave trade. The handwriting was difficult to make out, but the further we got into the project, the better I became at skimming letters and looking for those with good research value. NARA does not dispose of any documents, so there was no appraisal in our process. In truth, Rob told us that he could have gone through these records in about an hour - so clearly there is a learning curve, because we took a day and a half.

So, what did we find? Glad you asked – because this part really rocked. I came across several letters regarding the attempted invasion of Cuba in the 1840s and 1850s. I tagged them because they stuck out, in overall content, from the other correspondence which related largely to unpaid debts. Rob told us that during this period proponents of slavery made “expeditions” to Cuba, Nicaragua, and other nearby territories in an attempt to make them U.S. possessions that could be brought into the union as new slave states. Several of these letters referenced William Walker and were appeals from the U.S. Department of State to local authorities in Mobile to be on the lookout for Walker and other unsavory characters who were attempting these ill-advised expeditions into Spanish territories.

My final find on the second day was the best. Rob checked in at the end of the afternoon to see what else we found that might be of interest and I mentioned a letter that referenced a slave ship that arrived in Savannah in 1858. When I told him the name of the ship was the Wanderer, he flipped out! The Wanderer was reportedly the last slave ship to arrive in the United States, bringing just over four hundred slaves from Africa into the port at Savannah, Georgia in 1858. They were then dispersed to states throughout the South. Rob has been culling through customs records from various states and creating a special finding aid of all materials related to the Wanderer and thought he had collected all there were to be found.

I don’t think Rob dreamed we would find such interesting material in this very small group of records, but the big finds were exciting for us! They capped off an already great experience. We spent our final day entering the records into the NARA database (ARC), so with any luck our hard work will be approved and accessible on the web in a few weeks.

When we reported back to our classmates on Friday about our experience, we had some truly interesting things to share. Beyond our project, we were able to offer a very different perspective on archives, as the records NARA manages and their methods for doing so are vastly different from the habits of university archives. Long blog post short – new perspectives, great research finds, helpful mentor = great experience at NARA Atlanta. I’ll post my overall recap and final thought on my GAI experience tomorrow (hopefully).

Your Archivist in Training,


And So It Begins

Our barcodes have arrived, along with the barcode scanner and laptop, meaning that we can now make real headway in preparing for the move!

As discussed in the previous posts, we will be utilizing barcodes as a means of retrieving materials from the high density storage area in the new building. Consequently, we have to apply barcode labels to every single container - be it a document case, record storage carton, or map folder. You name it, we’re sticking a barcode on it.

The barcoding project will begin with the Richard B. Russell, Jr. Collection since it is our largest (approximately 3,500 boxes) and most complex collection. In order to limit confusion, we decided to work on one series at a time within the Russell Collection. Before applying even a single barcode, we developed a 6 step workflow for the project – the goal being to decrease the
possibility of missing containers.

Step 1: Count the physical boxes and ensure they are in the right order on the shelf.

Step 2: Check the EAD record for the series to ensure that each container is listed.

Step 3: Add the EAD record to Archivists’ Toolkit.

Step 4: Attach the barcodes to the boxes.

Step 5: Scan the barcodes into Archivists’ Toolkit, attaching them to their container record.

Step 6: Create a processing record, documenting what needs to be done to the series before moving (i.e. creating a MARC record or boxing loose material) and a list of student projects that can be completed after the move (i.e. adding the collection name to the folders or photocopying clippings)

As of today we have barcoded 10 series composed of 1181 containers, or the first 2 rows of our storage area. Not a bad start! I’ll keep you posted as the project continues and I make my way deeper and deeper into rows of shelving here at the Russell. Wish me luck.

Post by Kat Stein, Head of Arrangement and Description, Russell Library

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nothing Lasts Forever

Today's class focused on archival preservation -- from materials, vendors, and best practices (still, "it depends") to setting priorities and planning for disasters. Like our sessions last week, we used case studies to tease out some larger preservation concerns. As an added bonus we got to explore the Georgia Archives conservation lab and use teaching samples of real materials to test our knowledge of formats and to make recommendations for preserving the variety of items before us. It was a pretty engaging day and one which marked the beginning of our second (and last) week at the Institute. And while I am sad to say we're half way through already - my lamenting did not inspire the title of this post. Slide three of the opening Powerpoint presentation did...

Preservation - The activities an archives undertakes to extend the life of its holdings.

Conservation - The physical stabilization or treatment of individual items.

Led by Georgia Archives staff members Christine Wiseman (Preservation Services Manager) and Tina Seetoo (Conservator), our class learned the basics of archival preservation and one very important lesson: preservation (at its very best) = preventative medicine. Nothing lasts forever. Preservation is the process of stalling the deterioration of an artifact. Everything from what the artifact is made of to the condition in which it is found (at which point preservation can begin), to the resources that can be expended to maintain its condition, determine how long that process can ward off the inevitable. Armed with extra time to consider the options, archivists can make informed decisions about how to secure the legacy of a particular artifact or entire collection.

Right: Classmates examining "mystery" objects in the conservation lab.

Now, this next observation is pretty obvious and in many ways we've been talking about this in class all week, but when I heard one of the instructors make the point out loud today it really stuck with me. Christine said that the major challenge in an archives is patron use of the collections. In a museum, more often than not, objects are not something that visitors get to touch. The nature of the interaction, or lack thereof, between museum visitors and displays gives museum objects a level of protection that archival collections don't typically receive. Any way you slice it, handling a collection increases the risk that those documents won't be around for future researchers to handle. It is the job of the archivist to reduce this threat by providing the best environmental conditions, instructing users in best practices for handling, and knowing when to say when and removing original items from public use. Researchers are their own worst enemies .

While taking it all in, I tried to hone in on tips and tricks of preservation that might aid the Russell Library in its move to the new special collections building. Certainly, the refresher course in environmental monitoring gear was useful in thinking about how to manage our new exhibit spaces from the start. And Christine has some particularly good tips for moving materials safely, since the Georgia Archives successfully executed their own move in 2003. All in all, another rewarding day! Tomorrow morning I start my mini-internship at the National Archives Southeast Regional Branch. More on that as things develop.

Your Archivist-In-Training,


Below: Shots of Jenny and I examining a 19th century scrapbook and making recommendations for preservation.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Security Matters

While I've been really enjoying our discussions in class each day, trying to relay them into blog posts that convey not only my enthusiasm but also relatable information about archives has been challenging. And truthfully, we covered archival appraisal (deciding what to keep, what to toss, and what to...everything else) two days ago and I was enthralled, but I have yet to compose a post on that information. But it is coming soon, I swear. In the meantime, today we talked about some pretty juicy information that I feel like most folks can relate to. Here goes...

Chapter eight in our reading talks about security issues and disaster planning. Our group will be touring preservation spaces at the Georgia Archives (including the conservation lab) and talking about all things disaster on Monday with the conservators as our guides/discussion leaders, so our instructor Tim honed in on questions of security today. As in most of our class sessions, we divided time between discussing case studies in groups and with the class, and discussing the actual readings from Hunter. The two situations we were put into involving security were: (1) what happens when you observe a researcher stealing materials, versus (2) what happens when you observe a volunteer stealing materials. What is your priority? What is the best approach? Do you approach the "culprit" at all? How can you approach them if you aren't sure about the theft? In either case - the priority seems to be stopping the materials from leaving the archives. That was universally agreed upon in our class. But, how do you go about it? Our various groups explored different options and their respective ends. In terms of the researcher situation, it seemed that most favored a moderate approach was giving the researcher the benefit of the doubt on the first offense. Most folks felt the same approach would also work with volunteers. In the end, a more direct approach was recommended for the latter - because a dishonest staff person or volunteer poses a far more dangerous threat to the protection of the collection than a researcher who may or may not come back (depending on the archivist's recommendations following an "incident"). I thought this was an interesting revelation and prompted most people in the room to assume a more assertive role than many would have liked (me included). The one thing we all recognized and felt strongly about was at the core of the situation - protecting the stuff. If that protection involves directness, I think that most of us are now willing to take on that new role when confronted. Having the opportunity to to assume - as I said in the last post, a role of authority - made us all realize and assert our level of responsibility in this situation.

I think the security questions made us all think that we should be more vigilant with the collections we currently play a role in managing. I know that was the impact I felt. They emphasized the importance of implementing good policies (using standard forms and agreements, checking identification, making sure no outside materials come into the archives) on the front end, and making sure everyone abides by them -- students, faculty, scholars, average joes - everyone. I wouldn't say this leads to second guessing, but these exercises certainly made me appreciate the policies we have in place at the Russell and the team of staff that I have in place to back me up in situations where I have to confront visiting researchers. Hopefully, I never confront one of the situations that we covered in class, but if I do I am grateful (in advance!) that we have such excellent groundwork in place. If I do, then I feel more prepared. So - win/win. I'm lucky I work for a great place with supervisors with TONS of experiences handling everything under the sun. Like many of our sessions in class, I found today showing me how much I have learned already from working in the archives, mostly from my colleagues, which builds my confidence as an archivist.

I would be remiss not to mention the fabulous reception we had tonight at the Auburn Avenue Library in Atlanta with all of the intern supervisors! It was great - with amazing food and great company. Next week, we will each spend three days at an internship in the Atlanta area, applying some of the knowledge we have amassed in the last several days. I found out that I will be at the National Archives (right next door to the Georgia Archives, so I already know where to park!) but haven't been filled in on the details yet. Hopefully I'll find out tomorrow and be able to fill you in this weekend. Meantime - thanks to everyone who put together the reception AND to our fabulous instructor Tim who has prepared us for the week ahead.

Your Archivist in Training,


PS -- My apologies for no new pictures!! I meant to take them at the reception at least, but got wrapped up in mingling and forgot - so I pledge to take more photos during my internship next week!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Informal Forum (6/18/2010): Slavery or Freedom Forever

The Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia (RFCLG) is hosting National Issues Forums on a monthly basis at the Russell Library. Our next informal forum will take place this Friday, June 18th from 3:00-4:30PM in the Russell Library auditorium.

In 1854 President Franklin Pierce faced a critical choice, one that would determine the fate of his presidency and have a profound impact on the future of the United States. Should he support the Kansas-Nebraska proposal, which gave local settlers the right to determine whether or not slavery would be permitted? Should he maintain the Missouri Compromise, which banned slavery in these territories? Or, since any decision regarding slavery would have a significant impact on the nation's economic well-being, should practical considerations overrule moral rhetoric? How would you advise President Pierce?

Using the historical issue guide, "Slavery or Freedom Forever: What's at Stake in the Kansas-Nebraska Act?" the group will consider several approaches to tackling this complex issue. Trained neutral moderators will guide the discussion. The event is free and open to all. More information is available by contacting Jill Severn at 706-542-5766. For more information about Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia, visit

How to Find the Russell Library: The Russell is located on the bottom floor of the Main Library building on UGA's north campus. Follow the path down the right side of the main library building (the west facing side) and down the stairs to access our door!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Day One: It Depends

Georgia Archives Institute 2010 Pretest, Question 8: What are the two most frequently used words in the archival profession?
Answer: It Depends

My Guess: Donor Agreement (I have a lot left to learn...)

And so it all began. On my first day in class my fellow attendees and I dove into archival ethics, case studies, and group discussions (using the former to flesh out the latter). We moved through two chapters of our primary text (Developing and Maintaining Practical Archives by Gregory S. Hunter) at lightning speed, learning essential terminology left and right. And through it all we found out that when faced with decisions in the archives there is one response more than any other that you will hear: it depends. It is both reassuring and unnerving that armed with this single phrase I may now be able to fake my way through conversations with experienced, professional archivists without seeming like a total novice. Or so our instructor told us (though I submit that the results of my pretest may suggest otherwise). Now that I've gotten my money's worth out of the class (insert laughter here) let's see what else is in store.

Front of the GA Archives in Morrow, GA
The morning kicked off with introductions from our instructor, Tim Ericson, and members of the Archives Staff who helped to put the institute together. Then, straight to work. Working in groups of four, we tackled the first case study. In the scenario each of us had just been hired as an archivist at a community archives and were confronted with a useful but troublesome collection of health surveys. The nature of the questions on said surveys, coupled with the personal information (names, birth date, social security number) provided, raised questions about how to prepare this sensitive material for researcher use while accounting for issues of privacy and adhering to the ethical code. We explored the range of possibilities for dealing with this collection, from opening it sans restrictions to disposing of the collection entirely - favoring some options in between the extremes. The exercise encouraged my classmates and I to work together and talk through some of the underlying issues in groups, followed by commentary from Tim.

Two chapter overviews, a guided list of terminology, and several more case studies later, I had completed my first day. I am happy to report that I now have an understanding of the characteristics of records and an overview history of archives (initiated by the French Revolution). The group work and other case studies we reviewed were great - putting each of us into the position of a decision maker when considering what records to keep and why. And speaking as someone returning to the classroom for the first time in a few years, the case studies are a great way to cover material in an engaging way that pushes folks in the class to interact.

End of day one: I have lots left to learn. But, I'm heading home to reach chapters 3 & 4 in our text with great ambitions for tomorrow. Up next: appraisal! I can't wait. I'll let you know what I find out.

Your Archivist in Training,


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Prep Work

Shots of our oral history team -- Craig Breaden (Head of Media and Oral History) & Christian Lopez (Oral History Coordinator) setting up for tomorrow's double header interview for ROGP. Intense discussions = optimal interview setup!

Craig behind the camera...

...And Christian in the hot seat!

Great Expectations

My official title at the Russell Library is Assistant Outreach Archivist. I find it a bit misleading. While I certainly do the bulk of my work in “outreach” – developing exhibits, planning public programs, and working with students and researchers to explore our collections – my experience with the duties typically associated with the title “archivist” are more limited. I don’t process collections, write finding aids, or cultivate donors. I still understand archives more from a researcher's perspective. In my life as a graduate student I learned how to navigate finding aids, request boxes, and handle materials. I discovered the importance of investigating secondary literature on a topic before diving into primary documents, and how to budget my time and avoid feeling overwhelmed with an abundance of rich materials once I got into the primary sources (knowing when to say when).

When I’m stationed at the research desk or responding to emails from off-site patrons, I find that perspective useful. Not so long ago I was that nervous student stuffing my belongings into a locker, so I try to make new researchers feel welcome and comfortable in the archives. I remember sending emails when repositories were too far away for me to visit frequently, and try to go the extra mile now in doing legwork for off-site patrons. But customer service aside, there are other important parts to being a good archivist, most notably a good depth of knowledge on the collections and a solid foundation in archival principles and practices. The longer I’m here at the Russell the greater my level of knowledge on our holdings, but my understanding of archival principles has been slower to develop. I learn new things from my colleagues almost every day and have joined some professional archival organizations that host interesting conferences and workshops, but I’m anxious to dive in and really learn the underpinnings of our activities. What are the nuts and bolts of processing a collection? How does archival appraisal work? What are people in the field saying about digitization efforts? Why do we manage the organization of objects differently than museums? Next Monday I will begin a more structured approach to learning about archives as an attendee at the 2010 Georgia Archives Institute (GAI).

Designed for beginning archivists and librarians, GAI is a two week course hosted annually that provides instruction in basic concepts and practices on archival administration and management. In addition to seven days of classroom instruction, attendees participate in a three-day internship at an archival repository in the Atlanta area – which provides a link between classroom theory and real world application. Attendees come from across the state and beyond! Luckily for me, Atlanta is a short trip from Athens and I have a friend’s couch with my name on it. For more specifics on GAI, you can visit their website at

So why this blog post? Well, I thought it might be worthwhile to document my experience in this class as I go through it. This introduction will be the first in a series of posts to come over the next few weeks in which I will discuss what I learn and how this new knowledge can enhance my abilities as an outreach archivist. Also, I’m developing a small case exhibit in the Russell to describe how collections go from acquisition to accessibility (re: a finished product on the shelves that is open to researchers) to be installed in July. Hopefully what I learn will enrich the voice of the display. I’m currently taking suggestions for a clever title for the series – so if you have a suggestion, email it to me at or tweet me @RussellLibrary. Talk to you all next week!

Your Archivist-in-Progress,