The real meat of the visit was my conversation with Erin. She filled me in on some of the unique collections within the UNCG archives – particularly the women veterans historical collection and the extensive collection of cello sheet music held by the archives.
I was also interested to hear about her background as a student and archivist – from an undergraduate English major to her draw to archives and her graduate and professional work. She reflected on the ways in which her own unique experiences have contributed to her work as an archivist – public relations following undergrad, working with the personal collection of Sen. Fred Thompson after grad school, her work with N.C. State University, etc.
An English major myself, I like to find the connections and themes in the world at large, and it’s always nice to see others can make the same translations in their personal and professional lives. As a person who is interested in just about everything, an archivist’s ability and desire to master the subjects in which he or she finds themselves submerged – whether it’s Fred Thompson or agricultural practices or Baptist ministers – to me, has its own place within the list of desired qualifications for such a position.
We also spoke about the importance of marketing an archival collection. Knowing what’s in the collection and what people want to see is another vital skill. Part of the special collections at UNCG is an extensive record of oral histories, including a recent series of interviews with African American students who were among the first on campus after integration was completed. Certainly with significant Civil Rights anniversaries this year, this was a timely and interesting way to draw people to the work of archives and special collections.
I also enjoyed hearing about how the use of the university archives is integrated into various classes in programs across campus. To me, this is a great form of marketing, letting students know HOW resources in the archives can be used and how it relates to them on a personal level.
We took a tour of the closed stacks and other areas, another of my favorite parts about an archives. I love the rows and rows of boxes and the potential stories they contain – the odd configurations of shelves and the need to creatively use every square inch of available space only adds to the appeal for me.
We moved on to what is now the space for the university’s digital projects. The Textiles, Teachers, and Troops project documents history in Greensboro from 1885-1945 and includes items from UNCG’s collection, among several other college archives and the Greensboro Historical Museum. The undertaking is being led by UNCG with the aid of a grant from the State Library of North Carolina. It was neat to get a “behind the scenes” look and some insight on this project.
Visiting on the coldest day of the last 20 years had its own advantages (and disadvantages). Yes, I braved the arctic temperatures to walk across campus to the library but I also got to witness an unexpected dilemma unfolding when I arrived. The windows in the bathroom among the stacks were frozen over – from the inside. Condensation formed perfect icicles at the bottom of the (nearly) floor to ceiling window. This brought on further worry about whether the pipes had actually frozen and what the consequences of running the sink in said bathroom might be. Who could have thought to plan for that in this North Carolina climate? The joys of the unexpected!