Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Week 20: Diversity in Action

During my seventh week at the Mayme Clayton, I trained five volunteers on the processing of Mayme’s papers, participated in an interesting professional development call with Andrea Jackson, and attended a presentation at the ONE archives on campus at the University of Southern California.

My goal for incorporating volunteers into the workflow of processing of Mayme’s papers has been fully realized. Most of the volunteers do not seem too enthusiastic until I show them my workspace in the judge’s chambers and they see Mayme’s grit and determination demonstrated in her writings and correspondence. The unopened boxes are lined up against the east wall, my sorting shelves are adjacent on the north wall and the tables full of labeled folders are on the tables in the middle of the room.  I show them my organizational schema and indicate where each series is located. I explain any quirks about the series. For instance, in the Western States Black Research Consortium series, I have a Research subseries which corresponds to the topic any academic articles that we come across in the collection. For example, there is a folder title, “Research Project: Lynching”, it is full of photocopies and articles about lynching. I imagine that Mayme was gathering information for a researcher and these are the copies that she kept for her collection. I also have research project folders for Africa, Black Religion, Paul Robeson and Frederick Douglass. I give the volunteers a short stack of materials and they file them away using the schema as their guide. I check in periodically and deal with their “unsure” piles. At this rate, I anticipate getting through the remaining 135 boxes well before the end of May 2013.

On Thursday, the fellows had the pleasure of discussing the field of archives with Andrea Jackson of the Atlanta University Center. Ms. Jackson was seated at my table during The HistoryMakers reception at San Diego, but we did not get to talk too much. I did tell her that I loved her hair. At any rate, a 90 minute session with her was very informative for me. She discussed her evolving role from processing archivist to director of archives and how she is always looking for ways to grow. She said that she was blessed in her career, but I also believe that her success has a direct correlation with the leadership that she demonstrated in professional organizations. Our conversation re-ignited my idea to contribute to SAA publications and become more involved in professional organizations. I am also planning to look at the professional development book that she referenced, “Strength Finders, 2.0”. I had seen it for sale at The University of Chicago bookstore when I worked there earlier this year, but I had never heard such sincere praise of the book. Ms. Jackson told us about the TuPac Shakur conference that she helped organize earlier this year, and I admire the way that she has been able to integrate her personal interest into her professional activities. I had a few questions for Ms. Jackson that I was not able to ask during the course of the call, but I did follow up with her via email. I asked her about her experience with Archivist Toolkit, the importance of being a certified archivist, and which elements of a collection she considered when designing her online exhibits. I will share with the group as soon as she responds.  

On Sunday, I was invited by one of our donors to the ONE Archives for their monthly outreach program. ONE is a gay and lesbian archive that is national in scope and contains the world’s largest queer history collection.  The program was a book talk from Michael Kearns, a famous stage and television actor in California. His book, “The Truth is Bad Enough” told about his salacious affairs, his career, his adopted daughter and his life as an HIV positive gay man in Hollywood. The readings and commentary were very engaging and I toured the archive after his presentation. The place reminded me of the MCLM because they are operating in a non-traditional space and focusing on an often marginalized population. I think that their programming calendar and creative ways of de-accessioning books could be incorporated at MCLM. I had a nice time in their archive space and I would definitely be visiting again. This profession is amazing in its breadth and diversity; it really boggles my mind at times.

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