Tuesday, July 29, 2014


It's been a while since I've even thought about this blog, and that's a fair commentary on my personality. I'm not one of those people who posts about life obsessively (and we all have friends who post multiple times a day to Facebook, prompting me to think "What are you doing at work?") It's also a fair assessment of the curse of being a lone arranger. I simply do not have the time to post about what I do in the archives because I'm working.

So there have been changes: my long-term student assistant graduated in May and I asked the work program office not to assign anyone yet. When I first arrived here, the archives crew was sort of a dumping ground for the late-comers, the health challenged and the oddballs. And, I had no clue how to work with people who had no clue how to do archival work. Sure, I'd been a supervisor before, but of an another archivist who merely had fewer years of work experience. In truth, the archivists I supervised were probably better trained that I could ever claim to be. They were easy to supervise. "Go. Do." And they went and did.

But a student, a teenager entering college for the first time can barely recognize what's going on in their life, let alone enter a work situation and DO. First off, going to college is radical, man. Everything is changing; they're changing; life around them is so different, and it's a recipe for disaster. For some of my student I felt like I functioned like a mom rather than a supervisor. I'm sure the archives and I were a complete mystery to them. And that was completely my bad. I didn't have a clue about where to begin.

I now have a training manual for beginning training workers, a kind of "best of" articles of how to be an archivist. I also know that they need to have a good grounding in the college's history, and I have resources for them to watch/read/study. Best of all, they get work credit for everything I tell them to read/watch. Plus, there's always an index, an inventory, a finding aid, a document to enter into Word.

Today's email brought to me the admonition that I must now have a work manual for my crew and it has to be posted online on Moodle, which made me think about all the times I've failed as a work supervisor. Maybe this is the time I finally figure out how to do it. And while that takes away from the stack of stuff I should process or describe or enter into Word, it's also pretty important part of my job, whereas blogging is not. Thus, the clash between paying attention to social media and all its implications, and the interior work of the archives. For all that we put out there for the world to read, the really important work needs to be within and unread by the world at large. Maybe another day I'll post that work manual out 'there'. But for now, the hard work is to think about what it means to train a young person to care for historical records how I can best do that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The WWC way

Technically speaking, I am not a lone arranger.  I have someone who works with me in the archives.  Here at WWC the vast majority of students have a job.  It's part of the triad: work-service-learning--which makes this place unique.

Amanda is in her third semester in archives.  Her main project this semester has been to put together an exhibit about the Farm School/WWC Junior College football team.  The team was started in 1922 and lasted until 1947.  It was never well-funded and always lacked for proper equipment.  Uniforms were raggedy.  Some years, the team barely had enough players to fill the roster.  Some years they didn't, and so they didn't play. 

But the Aggies played enough to develop a serious rivalry with cross-county schools Christ School and Ashville School.  In 21 contests with the AS Blues, the Aggies won only 1 game, tied 2 at 0-0.

Former farm manager and beloved WWC icon, Ernst Laursen, donated a football from the 1934 game with Christ School and a helmet.  Amanda found some good photographs and wrote captions and text about the team from research in the Owl & Spade and The Echo.  The school/college also had a pep band and cheerleaders. 

There are no cheerleaders now, nor pep band (but there is an awesome step team that performs at half-time during basketball games on occasion).  Mountain biking and canoeing has replaced the resource-intensive football and baseball.  And for one short period of time, football reigned where cows and chicken graze.

It's a little chaotic at the moment, but very soon, this jumble will become a wonderful homage to the long-gone football team.  Amanda has put in a lot of time on creating this exhibit.

The exhibit on the Aggie Gridiron should be up soon in the downstairs exhibit case in the library.  Come by and cheer Amanda on as she learns the art of exhibit-making and story-telling.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hold on to your digits!

The WWC Archives is getting ready to go digital. Sort of.

We, as in the college, is a member of the Appalachian College Association, a consortium of 24 (or so) small colleges up and down and near the Appalachians. It maintains a website and the Digital Library of Appalachia, and other programs.  But for our purposes the DLA is the focus of our attention.  Heretofore, WWC has participated by uploading 60% of the Mountain Music College, full-length or partial clips of singers, songwriters, instrumentalists who are local, traditional musicians or who performed in music halls/festivals/venues here in the area. 

The DLA is now requesting members upload photographs from the collections.  I attended a training session on using the software to do this last year, except them I got busy and didn't have an opportunity to use it.  That, and Amanda is very excited about doing this kind of data work. 

Because when you digitize and add photos to a collection it's not just the digitization, it's the creation of metadata.  This will be a slow process with lots of edits and checks and re-checks along the way.  But soon enough we'll share our fabulous photograph collection with the rest of the world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The people demand archives!

I don't think the archives has ever had 10 researchers in one day.  Fortunately (for them) they didn't all come at the same time because there's only 5 chairs in the reference area.

Proposals for the senior history theses are due Friday, and two students showed up for the first time today.  Awesome.  One of the topics won't be too difficult to research/write.  The other one will be.  The time to decide has passed this student by.  She's locked in and barely loaded.

I'm pretty sure I said in my intro to archives presentation "Come early, come often, stay late!"  I meant that.  The people may demand archives, but they'd better get there early enough to do the research.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In the hot spot...

We've reached that point in the semester where I am completely overrun--with reference, with students, with requests for my time and my brain and our records.  Working part-time when there are full-time demands is definitely not the way to go.  Not this week.

Fortunately, my student archivist has become bored with sleeving photographs, her current project, and eagerly took on two reference requests.  One was on the history of the lately departed Carson Hall; the other, how the furniture pieces in the Farm School's woodworking shop were sold or marketed.  Her attention to this level of detail and research will serve her well, as she is patiently sifting through a huge folder of financial records.  Awesome. Because I'm sifting through a pile of Henry Randolph correspondence from 1928 for a lecture I'm giving next Thursday.

And that means, of course, records go unprocessed, undescribed, uncataloged.  How to balance the life of research with that of making the records available.  The eternal dilemma of the lone arranger.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New year, new projects

It's the first full week of new semester at Warren Wilson.  The Archives now has a new student archivist, since Max graduated and left in the spring.  Amanda is a sophomore who worked on the library circulation crew.  She's picking up the photograph rehousing project started by Max; that job is a little more than half-finished.  She's also going to be doing data entry for uploading photos to the Digital Library of Appalachia and is learning how to scan images.

Speaking of scanning, IT services will be giving Archives its dedicated slide scanner sometime soon.  This will be a great addition as the Microtek 800 is fine for photos, it's not so hot for slides.  The Archives will become slide scanning central for the college community.  But not yet...

The other project that will consume a lot of time, especially for me, will be the reorganization and inventory of the Ben Holden presidential papers.  I've started some processing of this important collection, mostly in response to students looking for records to document papers from the 1970s & 80s.  This huge collection needs the work, but it may be some time before  I can finish.  Many, many more things are in the way.

No word yet on the integration of Archon and Archivists' Toolkit softwares.  Still waiting for this blessed event to occur so that archives can use ONE ultimate archival database.  Won't that be fun?







Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Full house!

It's not often the WWC archives gets enough visitors to fill all 5 chairs, but we did it last night.
The History 480 senior seminar proposals are due this week, so people are getting it in gear.  Suddenly, the archives has become the place to spend your Tuesday evening.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Awash in a sea of stuff

Ever have one of those days (weeks, months) when you feel like you're a total FAIL at being an archivist?

I'm having one of those weeks.

My desk is a wreck. A complete and utter mish-mash of clutter. How did I allow it to get this bad?

It happens. The detritus of others conspires to make us liars and cheats. Of course, most of the drips and drabs are of my own making, but I can blame it on the wee bits of stuff that comes at me through campus mail and the door and by the hands of others.

Get down with it, get dirty, get small. Make piles, then smaller ones, then tiny ones. Get up, move around, filefilefile, processprocessprocess. Some of it finds its way into the round file--hate to see you go, but that's where you belong. Sorry. Not everything is permanent in this impermanent world.

And, little by little, the piles disappear and soon I find an expanse of brown once again. Ahhhh!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Back from ...whereever

After not being able to access our gmail account for ages, I think we've finally gotten it straightened out.

Back with Owl Droppings as soon as we create some. :D

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Recently, the archives received from someone completely unaffiliated with WWC a friendship quilt that had been given to the Dorland-Bell School. [DB was a girls' school located in Hot Springs, about an hour north of Asheville. It was established in the 1888 by the Rev. Luke and Juliette Dorland, retired Presbyterian home missionaries. The school joined with the Farm School in 1942 to create Warren Wilson Junior College at the start of WWII.] The donor bought it at an auction near Cullowhee for $40. He then drove up here and gave it to the WWC Archives. I'm currently doing some research about the quilt and about friendship quilts in general. I hope to place the quilt on display during the final few weeks of classes. After that, I'll box it up for preservation.

What a wonderful gift! The donor did not ask for payment. However, he runs a non-profit shelter for cats, and he asked for donations to that. I gave him a donation. If you'd like to help our donor out, please contact me and I'll give you the information.

These unexpected moments of grace and gifts make being an archivist rewarding.