Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post is from our intern Rachel Mandell.
How did you get involved in archives?
I have always felt at home when visiting museums, galleries, libraries, and universities. I knew I wanted to work at some kind of memory institution—but didn’t quite know to what capacity. I even worked at in the library stacks as an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. A few years after graduating, and unhappy in the publishing business (my first job out of college), I discovered the Master’s in Library and Information Science degree. As I explored the field through graduate school at UCLA and internships at the Wende Museum of the Cold War and the Academy of Motion Pictures, I found that I was most excited when working with archival materials such as letters, photographs, films and physical objects of material culture. I was hooked!
Why did you volunteer to be the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable intern?
I saw the internship as a unique opportunity to get involved with the Society of American Archivists. As an early career Project Archivist, I have found it difficult to acquire the institutional support and flexibility that would allow me to participate in this organization. More importantly, even in my limited experience in the field (about 4 years), I have already experienced situations in which I needed to make a case for my specialized skills and the archival profession. When I saw the call for interns and looked at the Issues and Advocacy Toolkit online, I realized that the toolkit might have been able to help me better take a stand in those situations. I figured it was a chance for me to actively participate in the archival community and also help improve the tool, which may prove valuable to others in the future.
What is an archives issue that means a lot to you?
My current work on the Japanese American Digitization Project at California State University Dominguez Hills deals with an archival issue that has become very important to me—accurate archival description. The controversy surrounding the way that the Japanese American experience in the 20th century was historically and typically described by government agencies such as the War Relocation Authority is very present in this project. For example, internment is not a preferred or even an accurate term when describing the nearly 120,000 people who were forced to leave their homes. Internment refers to the legally permissible detention of enemy aliens in the time of war. However, it is extremely problematic to apply this term to the unlawful incarceration of American citizens—and nearly 2/3 of those people incarcerated were US citizens. As archivists, we have the power to describe and therefore perpetuate a particular perspective of history– archival description should not be taken lightly. Terminology and description are power tools.
How would you define advocacy?
Advocacy for me means feeling passionate about a cause, finding others to collaborate with, and together working towards a specific goal. I do think that advocacy can be a solo-effort, but I also believe that successful advocacy relies on building relationships and making connections with people. Though these connections, we can exchange information and opinions in hopes of promoting mutual understanding and make strides towards something better!