Thursday, 6 September 2012

Week 12: Fireworks

Some highlights of the last week at the HistoryMakers included Skyla’s presentation of her participation plan and our field trip to the archives at Chicago State University.  

Skyla put together a presentation that combined a factual expression of what she will be doing for the remainder of the fellowship and some heartfelt examples of why the Vivian Harsh collection is important to African American heritage. The video clips from Dempsey Travis and Rev. Addie Wyatt, as well as the presence of Skyla’s new supervisors, Michael Flug and Beverly Cook demonstrated how she connected to her repository. I am looking forward to seeing what kinds of innovative processing and programming ideas come out of this partnership. 

When the fellows travelled to Chicago State University, we had the treat of being welcomed by a former HistoryMaker fellow in her new position as University Archivist, Aaisha Haykal. Aaisha gave a brief overview of the university and her role as the archivist, and then she let her staff talk about their most significant collections. The records from Chicago’s Provident Hospital and Judge Eugene R. Pincham composed most of the discussion. The archives space at CSU is very bright and welcoming and it looks like Aaisha will have access to a wide variety of resources as she works to strengthen their program. Most people would say that the highlight of the trip was the viewing of automated retrieval system on the first floor of the library. The rows of silver metallic bins and giant yellow moving arm look like something out of a warehouse. The systems librarian explained how the machine works, how much it cost, and how it has benefited the library workers. It was a marvel to watch but I was more impressed with the career potential of this fellowship, demonstrated in Aaisha’s significant career move after the HistoryMakers.

I finished a total of nine finding aids from the HistoryMakers video oral history archive. Skyla and I finished six finding aids for special collections, including the re-housing and de-stapling aspects. When Julieanna expressed a desire to have seen more progress on the Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee collection, I volunteered to come in on Saturday to apply a little more order to that mass of boxes.  By 5:00 PM on Saturday, she had three neat stacks of boxes with materials in reverse chronological order, without staples, which represented Production, Event and Fundraising categories. Now, volunteers can review the boxes for accuracy, merge duplicate folders, and make some labels for the boxes. From there, an excel spreadsheet can be made, as well as the container list in the EAD finding aid. I am happy that the work of the fellows as well as the work of Mrs. Foster and Mrs. Alonzo will be incorporated in the final product. 

Although we did not have a formal office good-bye, I think that the work ethic and positive attitudes of the 2012-2013 fellows will be missed at the HistoryMakers. Several office mates made a point to say good bye to us on Friday and we took the chance to congratulate ourselves at a bar in Pilsen during the last week. The summer definitely had its highs and lows but I am very grateful for my fellow fellows and the opportunity to be paid to work in the profession that I have worked my whole life to discover.     

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