Special Collections and University Archives

For the past two months, I have been an undergraduate intern at the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA). During the summer of 2018, I was a soon-to-be senior in the Arts Administration program at UNCG. I knew I would need to complete an internship in Arts Administration for my major, so I began looking into options in the Greensboro area. I had been fascinated by Special Collections, and benefitted from the resources they provided, since I had been at UNCG. Previous experience in museums had given me an interest in historic preservation and exhibit curation. As a double major in Arts Administration and Drama, I was interested in the extensive collections of theatre materials held by SCUA, which I had gotten a chance to glimpse during a visit with a Theatre History class.

Working with the photographs.
Since SCUA appealed to so many of my areas of interest within the field of Arts Administration, I decided to reach out via email to inquire if any internships were available. I was delighted when the answer was yes, and a little back and forth later, administrators from SCUA met with me and with my Arts Administration advisor to set the parameters of my internship. As per the requirements of the Arts Administration department, my internship supervisor and I worked out an internship contract including a time frame, learning goals, and deliverable projects. It is a semester-long internship that I commit eight hours a week to. 
Due to my focus on theatre, I was assigned to a collection donated shortly before I arrived – the Livestock Playhouse and Greensboro Children’s Theatre Collection. Working on the Livestock Playhouse Collection has been a fascinating experience. The collection was donated by Barbara Britton, a veteran director who headed both theatre programs from 1971 to 2005, and contains materials from productions from the 1970s-2000s. 
An original, hand-drawn poster for 1987’s production of “Mame.”

One exciting element of this collection is that these materials are in multiple formats: photographs, hand-rendered sketches for posters, audio reels, slides, and more. Not all of these materials are ones I have worked with before, so learning the different ways of handling them has been a great learning experience. It also gave me a reason to be introduced to other departments within the library.

The collection contains thousands of photos, presenting difficult storage and preservation challenges, so I visited Preservation Services to in discuss options for long-term preservation and  storage. While at preservation services, we focused on the photographs and scrapbook pages. The scrapbook pages will need the most attention, as the adhesive backing begins to degrade and harm the attached photographs.

Scrapbook page for the earliest production in the collection, “The Wizard of Oz” (1971).

For help understanding the best practices and options for dealing with the abundant audiovisual materials, like audio reels and VHS tapes, I visited the Digital Projects unit, part of the Electronics Resources and Information Technologies (ERIT) department in the Library. I loved learning about the work these departments do, and from an Arts Administration perspective, getting to know how the Library’s departments are internally organized was invaluable.

Most of all, though, what I loved about this collection is seeing how one theatre grew and changed over the course of three decades, and all the lives it touched. It is an important piece of Greensboro history to preserve, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to help do so and learn more about my field in the process. The arts go beyond just performances and exhibitions – the people who preserve the records of art happening, giving us a continuum to look back on, are part of the equation too. As an Arts Administrator, seeing the whole picture of everyone and everything keeping the arts alive is important to me. My time at SCUA has helped me do this and has made me excited to look more into careers in library science in the future.

By Audrey Dubois, UNCG Arts Administration, Spring 2019

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