Steering Shares provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This post come courtesy of the current I&A Intern, Samantha Brown. Along with serving as I&A’s intern and Social Media manager, Samantha works as an Assistant Archivist at the New-York Historical Society.
How did you first get involved in archives?
The first time I considered a career in archives was after I completed my undergraduate degree. I knew that I wanted to work in libraries, but I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. Throughout high school and college, I had worked in a public library and enjoyed my job. However, being a public librarian wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to find something that would combine my love for research, cataloging, libraries, museums, history, and politics into one career.
Since I was undecided, I sought out the advice of some librarians I knew. One suggested that I should look into becoming an archivist. While I knew about archives and their use by historians, I never thought about the people that maintained those records. After doing research on the internet and speaking to a few more librarians, I decided that being an archivist might be what I was looking for. With an idea in mind, I went ahead and applied to an information studies program that had a concentration in archives. After taking the introduction to archives class in my first semester of graduate school, it seemed like being an archivist was what I was looking for but I needed confirmation. I needed to actually work in an archive to see if the ideas I had in my head matched reality. Luckily for me, a class called “Archival Representation” was half in the classroom and half at a field site. In class, I learned the theories behind processing archival collections. At the field site, I applied the theories from the classroom and applied them to processing and describing an actual collection.The class was an amazing experience and helped me realize that archives were the thing for me. I loved taking an unorganized box of materials and creating something that is useable and accessible to researchers.
Once I finished this class, I wanted to make sure, once again, that working in archives was what I wanted and not something I just liked because of a class. That summer, I set up an internship working in the special collections department of a local college. For the three months of this internship, I was able to complete a variety of tasks and expand my knowledge of what it meant to be an archivist. Just like the class, I loved my experience. With two different experiences under my belt, I positively knew I had made the correct choice and made it my mission to become a professional archivist.
What made you want to be an intern for the I&A Section?
I decided to apply for the internship with the Issues & Advocacy Section because I wanted to connect with other archives professionals and use some of the skills I had gained working in public libraries to promote archives and archivists. In my current position as an assistant archivist, I am working in an isolated setting and don’t have much of an opportunity to meet other professionals or do outreach. By working on this committee, I hope to meet other archivists who can teach me about aspects of archives that I don’t already know about. Along with learning from others, I also want to share experience that I have gained from working in other types of library environments.
What is an archival issue that means a lot to you?
A problem that faces archives and archivists is visibility. While people know about historians and deeply care about the work they do, they do not know as much about the people and institutions that make the work of historians possible. This lack of visibility means that people don’t know about the importance of archivists and the records that they steward. While there have been great efforts by archives to create social media pages that will reach a wider audience than those we usually see conducting research, it’s questionable whether or not that is enough to make people care about archivists and the work they do. This means that along with gaining more visibility, we also need to inform people about our work and how our work impacts them as individuals as well as the impact that archives have on society at large.