Monday, June 3, 2013

A Student's Perspective: Behind the Stacks in Manuscripts and Archives

I started in the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) as a volunteer during the fall semester of my freshman year at UNCG (2010). I had emailed someone (I can’t remember who now) in the library and asked if there was any need for volunteers in the library. I thought I’d be checking out books or reshelving things. The person replied and told me that there was no need for help in the main part of the library and suggested that I email Kathelene Smith in Archives. I did, and a week later I started as a volunteer. I mentioned this to my older brother, Dr. Joe Sanders, who is a faculty member at Kansas State University. He was surprised to hear this; he had just given a lecture on some research that he had done at SCUA. This was a nice surprise and made me even more interested in the work that goes on here.

Throughout my first year at SCUA, I worked on many different projects. The most extensive was some cataloguing with the State Normal Magazine that I did for Hermann Trojanowski, one of the archivists here. Hermann was a great sport and taught me a LOT about many aspects of archives. I also worked on organizing some photographs, supervised by Kathelene and Hermann. As it turns out, I knew less than I thought I did because after proudly presenting the results of my photograph organizing, Hermann gently pointed out that I had done the notes on the back of the photographs upside
down! Regardless of my stumbling during the first year, Keith Gorman and Kathelene pulled me aside and told me that if I wanted to return the next year, they would allow me to do so as a paid departmental student employee!

During the fall 2012 semester, I had to do a class project. It was a biography of a student who had gone to UNCG when it was still the State Normal and Industrial School, and we were required to use the archives to do it. It was great fun to experience SCUA from a researcher’s point of view, and I definitely had a head start because of my experiences and knowledge of what the archives contain. But I was surprised at how many more resources exist – it never ends!

Over the course of the last two years, I've learned about an amazing world of processing, administration, and project planning that I had no idea even existed. I absolutely love what I do; there are so many great things about working at SCUA. I've worked on some projects with nearly every staff member here and gotten to know them fairly well. I can honestly say that I have never worked with a group of people who are this kind and understanding and hilarious to be with. Every day there is something new to explore within the projects that I’m doing, and every day I learn more about UNCG – an entire history that I never would have guessed was there.

Rachel Sanders
UNCG Historical Society
Student Libraries' Advisory Council
Peer Career Ambassador
UNCG Career Services Center
Kappa Delta Pi - Education Honor Society

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