Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of committee member Samantha Brown, Assistant Archivist at the New-York Historical Society.
1) What was your first experience working with archives?
My first experience working in an archive was in graduate school. During my second semester, I had taken a processing class where you split your time between the classroom and a field site. While at the field site, I had a friendly relationship with the archivists and assisted them with a project. A few months after the class ended, out of the blue, I received an email from the supervisory archivist at the field site asking if I was interested in a job. Being a grad student, and constantly in need of money, I excitedly jumped at the chance to gain more experience in my chosen profession while also gaining a bit of money to help pay my mounting bills.
The job itself gave me a wide range of experiences. The focus of the job was on processing but I also gained experience providing reference services in a university setting and digitizing a wide range of documents. Getting to work in a professional setting during grad school was incredibly help. I was able to learn what the job was like on a day to day basis and learn about what parts of the profession fit me and my skills best.
2) What do you hope to gain by being on the I&A Steering Committee?
During my first year on the committee, I feel like I was just trying to get a hold on what the expectations for me were. While I had previously served on the committee as an intern, being a full committee member is a different experience and comes with a new set of rules. Now that I’m in my second year, I want to work on building connections between archivists. Many of us seem to be struggling with our jobs for one reason or another and it would be great if we could find a way to support each other, to help others out during times of strife.
3) What is an archival issue that means a lot to you?
As a profession, I feel like there are many issues that were facing. One problem that I was confronted with recently is legitimizing our profession to people that don’t use our services. Of course historians, social scientists, and genealogists will see the value of archives and archivists but how do you get scientists or engineers to care about what your doing. Historical records aren’t things they need to deal with on a daily basis and, because of this, many people in those fields see our work as something unimportant.If we want to continue our work and receive the funding that we so desperately need then we need to find a way to reach people who don’t use archives and teach them about the inherent value of historical records. We can’t spend all of our time educating people, of course, but if people keep thinking of history as an unknowable and unreachable thing then they won’t value what we can provide them.
4) What can we find you doing outside of the archival profession?
Outside of work, I’m a bit of a nerd. I enjoy playing Dungeons Dragons, reading scifi and fantasy novels, and playing video games. Nothing beats getting together with a group of friends and fighting off a dragon.