When I first started my graduate career at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), I decided to look for a job with the University Libraries. Directed to the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives department, I learned that they only had a volunteer position available, for which I promptly interviewed.
In the fall of 2011, I began working as a volunteer in the University Archives for a relatively modest ten hours each week. My first exposure to history at UNCG’s Archives came through the personal recollections of prominent local Rotarians through working with the Preserving the Past: The Rotary Club of Greensboro Oral History Project. I proofread transcripts, drafted abstracts, and organized the digital interviews. I was captivated by their first-hand recollections of the history of Greensboro, the Civil Rights Movement, World War II, and the changing economics of the United States. My first few months working with the Project showed me the importance of preserving these valuable memories, which would otherwise be lost.
I enjoyed my experience in the department and found the entire concept of an archive fascinating. While I had experience with using archival resources, I had never really given the academic archive serious consideration. Nestled away in libraries across the country, archivists and librarians were preserving the past – of both institutions and individuals – for future generations.
After a semester as a volunteer, I was offered a student assistant position in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives. With this new position, I began to tackle more varied and difficult projects. I began processing the records of the International Double Reed Society and the University’s historical photographs and postcards collections. Each new challenge and experience made me more assured that I wanted to pursue a career in archives.
Although I had entertained thoughts of obtaining a Ph.D. in English, my time in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives showed me that I was better suited to a career as an archivist. I would still be able to teach, assist students and researchers, and maintain a connection to literature within this one wonderful field. Encouraged by my supervisors, I applied to several schools’ Library Science graduate programs, settling on UNC-Chapel Hill’s SILS program which I will begin in the fall of 2013.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment or experience that altered my life and career plans. Whatever it was, I am remarkably pleased that my family encouraged me to volunteer at the library and that I found such an enjoyable career path.
After personally experiencing the numerous emotional, touching, comical, and just plain outrageous things you can stumble across in University Archives, I would encourage everyone to make a trip to an archive!