Special Collections and University Archives

During my final semester in the Masters of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program at UNCG, I chose to do my practicum with the Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA). My educational background is in humanities (especially art and philosophy), so I already had a love for history, cultural heritage, manuscripts, and so forth. I was also impressed and curious after hearing a number of SCUA staff give presentations and talks to some of my classes. Kathelene McCarty Smith (Instruction and Outreach Archivist and SCUA practicum supervisor) greatly helped me – through class presentations and personal meetings – to recognize my passion and calling to do archival/special collections work. The SCUA team at UNCG has been very successful in promoting and implementing instructional outreach. This is done through a creative combination of interactive lessons (instruction in primary source, information, and digital literacies), exhibits, blogs, and social media posts, among other methods.


The exhibit required me to conduct archival research
with primary sources (photographs, textual documents, artifacts),
as well as digital materials (digitized facsimiles and born-digital files)

After meeting with my LIS and SCUA supervisors, we decided upon an exhibit project which would both meet my learning objectives (in research, instruction, and outreach) and fit into the semester’s time frame. The project involved highlighting the history of library education at UNCG; the pop-up exhibit itself was showcased for the occasion of the LIS department’s re-accreditation at the end of March. The practicum required 120 hours of work experience for the semester. Generally, my time was divided into research, digitization, selection of materials, and constructing, arranging, and displaying the exhibit. My practicum also included chronicling the exhibit’s preparation processes. Thankfully, my efforts were able to add upon and pull from the in-depth research already conducted by Professor James V. Carmichael Jr.

A curated exhibit is a perfect example of outreach fused with instruction.
It is outreach because of the aesthetic advocacy of collections and services, and it
is instruction through conveying narrative (interpretation) and description (metadata).

Of course, there are highlights to share from my learning experiences. First, archival research is both satisfying and exciting; it requires an investigative and nuanced mode of inquiry into both primary sources (photographs, textual documents, artifacts), as well as digital materials (digitized facsimiles and born-digital files).  The finding aid for the LIS Department Records guided much of my research and led me from concepts and collection descriptions to the access of the actual sources and items. Second, there is creativity in archival instruction and outreach (including curation); it requires an improvisational touch because of variable audiences, timelines, resources, and space limitations. There is also an aesthetic component as the arrangement and display of an exhibit contributes to the narrative in a visual and tactile way. Third, as archivists select, arrange, and narrate their research, they become influential storytellers. Fourth, refining my archival-library writing skills has been vital; it has required my documentation and description to be clear, succinct, and functional (in communicating relevant information and the significance of collections and services).

My SCUA experience has given the confidence and perspectives necessary to continue learning and growing into the profession! In the future, I am looking forward to performing reference services, creating finding aids, conducting and transcribing oral history interviews, and planning literacy lessons.

Anthony Arcangeli – UNCG SCUA/LIS – Spring 2018

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