Since the beginning of 2016, I have been working to finish up some processing projects in the archives. In particular, I have taken over the initial processing of the papers from former Union alumna and Professor Ann Belford Ulanov. These papers start with her work from her student years at Radcliffe College and end as faculty at Union Theological Seminary. A much larger portion of the collection covers Dr. Ulanov’s career within the Psych and Religion Department at Union as well as the manuscripts she produced.
Although it is always such a wonderful feeling to finish up a project, continuing to process another person’s work can at times be difficult. Sometimes you have an outline of what to expect and others you will just have to dive right in and see for yourself. For this collection, a fair amount has already been processed and what I have been doing is tackling sub-series, piece by piece, to make sure that what it contains does not belong elsewhere. This has been my first collection where I am using my judgment in such a way and it has been very educational.
Of course archivists cannot really read while doing this initial level of processing. I just have to peruse enough to figure out what each piece is and put it with similar items in large folders. Yet still, I love that I get a sense of who a person is by their papers. What kind of correspondence did they keep? What voice did they use with students, peers, and members of the community? What mementos did they keep years later? How did they organize it all?
With the portion Dr. Ulanov’s papers that I have been working through, I have been able to get an interesting portrait of who she was during her time here. It spans decades and I even saw hints of old arguments that are still alive on campus today. As I write this, I am winding down to the last box out of 7 in the last sub-series to be accounted for. There is still quite a ways to go, but I feel getting it all done will leave me with a lovely sense of accomplishment.
My first archival project here has been completely fascinating. The Catholic Church in India from 1880-1893? I know absolutely nothing about that! I found myself absorbed with the first few volumes, trying to get a sense of that world. The pages were browned, the edges were crumbling, some of the spines were a wreck and the smell evoked cherry-wood bookcases surrounding cups of tea and deep leather sofas. I do not think I have held a book that is 135 years old. That alone was enthralling.
Many of the pages include multiple clippings without author or publication. As a librarian and grad student, this bothered me. What was the source? Was it reliable? Yet the stories they contained were often very interesting and I found myself reading them. Then there were the larger publications of the church. These served to inform about the status of the missions and give an impression of the people and places that the missionaries were encountering. Some of these included illustrations. The captions on these were always worth reading since they gave insight into relationships and impressions.
This collection, when I got into it, seemed a bit like organized chaos. I appreciate the Finding Aid that I learned how to create for it so that hopefully people interested in the material will be able to enjoy looking through it as much as I did. On a final note, as a self-professed lover of languages I enjoyed sorting through not only English but also the French and Portuguese items included!
I am thrilled to be working as an archives student assistant at the Burke Library. I find it auspicious to be starting a new job, at my new school, in my new city, on my 31st birthday. What will this year hold for me? I am excited to find out!
This begins my 9th year of working in libraries. I started as a student assistant in circulation while getting my undergraduate degree in Studio Art at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. To be honest, I thought it would be a great place to be able to work on my homework as I trudged through my three minors in Art History, Italian, and German. Yet at that circulation desk I found a sort of second home where work was never a chore and I enjoyed helping people. I liked working there enough that I came back as a part-time supervisor after I graduated, which lead to a full time staff position at NC State University. There I worked in first the Design and then the Natural Resources branch libraries. So here we are, 9 years and 3 libraries later. I have enjoyed getting to know all the different tasks that each position has entailed and look forward to honing my skills for archiving.
But I have to admit that my love for libraries started with my grandmother. Every afternoon together we would do something “special,” be that go for a swim, share an éclair from our favorite café, or walk in the park. My favorite days were when we would go to the library and she would let me pick out as many books as my little arms could carry. Then we would go to her house and I would spread them all out on the cool, tiled floor. I could look at the pictures for hours and would ask her to read to me when she could.
It is such memories that make me excited to be working in the archives section of the library. The materials here hold stories. Not only of what is on the page but of the journey it took to get here.