A Set of Antlers, a Pair of Stuffed Owls, and Temporary Tattoos

My experience interning this week was rather unconventional as all of my time was spent outside of the archives. On Wednesday, September 14th, I, along with an employee from Crowder’s State Park, ran the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) booth at the North Carolina Mountain State Fair. From three until seven, Jennifer and I sat behind a table that had various pamphlets that highlighted the different aspects of the newly merged NCDNCR, including: the NC zoo, historical sites, museums, state parks, state park passports (unique to this year only as part of the State Park Centennial Celebration), information on various events that are coming up at museums and parks throughout the state, booklets on how to become a junior ranger, and stickers and temporary tattoos for kids. Jennifer also brought a set of antlers and a pair of stuffed owls which proved quite useful in drawing people in. The passports were also a hit, especially after we explained how they were meant to be used (take it to state parks that you visit in 2016 and they will stamp it, that way you can collect the stamps… cute, right?). The temporary tattoos were also popular—even with adults! For me the event was very much about learning more about the new merger. For instance, I had no idea that the zoo fell under the jurisdiction of the NCDNCR. So I spent the majority of my time getting more comfortable with explaining what our department was about and what we do. We also had a “clicker” (I don’t know what else to call it) that we used to keep track of how many people we talked to. Every time someone stopped by and asked a question or we engaged them in conversation, we simply hit a silver button on the “clicker.” I believe we spoke to over fifty people by the time we were relieved. I wish I could say that I enjoyed the fair afterward, but the truth is I was quite sick yesterday! I had big plans to ride all the nauseating rides that spin around really fast and then follow it up with a funnel cake and games. However, by the time seven rolled around and I met up with my fiancé, I was hungry and my throat and body were hurting pretty badly so we settled with buying some maple syrup flavored cotton candy and a funnel cake. By the time we finished the funnel cake I was beyond miserable, so, sadly, we left.

My cold—at least that’s what I think it is—was no better on Thursday, so I settled for doing some research for the archives from home. Per Heather’s request, I looked into the Bauhaus collection online through the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The primary reason that Heather is interested in this collection is because a couple of (very influential) professors from Black Mountain College—Josef and Anni Albers—contributed to it. The artistic couple hails from Germany and attended the Bauhaus art school there before Hitler closed it down. They then made their way to the United States and taught at BMC. The artwork and photographs attributed to the Albers that are located at MoMA are not included in the BMC collection at the archives, so this serves as a useful tool to offer BMC researchers that may be studying art or the Albers, which explains why Heather was naturally curious as to what all may be viewed online. A total of 152 pieces by Anni Albers can be found on MoMA’s website (http://moma.org/artists/96?locale=en) and 161 pieces by Josef Albers (http://moma.org/artists/97?locale=en). I have not yet informed Heather of my findings, as she is currently out of state, but I look forward to sharing these little treasures with her when she returns! I am sure she will be quite happy! It was a bit of an odd week, but nonetheless educational. I love working in the archives themselves, but it is always fun to have little adventures outside of the archives as well.

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Kristin from Chicago and Black Mountain College sites

September 1st found me, once again, helping fill researcher request. I spent the first part of my shift looking through student records from the Black Mountain College (BMC) to confirm photography course taken by certain students. The public is prohibited from viewing this particular part of the collection because student records are protected by the Family Education Rights and Protection Act (FERPA). This is actually a shame since many of the professors wrote notes about the students and their performance and, as a researcher, I would do almost anything to be able to read some of the notes that I as an archive intern am privy to! An example of this would be a professor voicing their opinion of a student’s mediocre work and the same student later on becoming widely known and acknowledged as a great artist. This is actually something that we have seen often. The WRA is, however, allowed to disclose courses taken by students, so I spent an hour or so looking up the requested courses before helping a student from Chicago that was visiting the archives to look at—big surprise—the BMC collection. Kristin (that was her name) was researching authors and the environments that they lived in and how these environments possibly influence them. Kristen from Chicago, as we called her, happened to need tons of photos scanned, but I didn’t mind so much since I was wide awake this time! She also needed copies of documents but there was the small issue of the Western North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources (WNCDCR) crashing so, instead of scanning the documents as a pdf like I normally would have done, I was forced to make actual physical copies. Towards the end of the day Heather invited me to go on a trip with her and Kristin from Chicago to see the remaining buildings and original property owned by the BMC, which was an adventure in and of itself! There were two locations and landscape was stunning and, funnily enough, one location was minutes away from where I grew up while the other location was right down the road from where I went to high school.

Although I have interacted with researchers visiting the archives and have filled electronic researcher requests, Kristin from Chicago’s visit was unique. For one, she and I worked together with little to no guidance from Heather. This was also the first time I took an offsite trip with a researcher to show them where the subject of their investigation began. Both in my interaction with Kristin and during my time in the student records, I was again reminded of Hands-On History and one of the primary questions posed: Who does history belong to? Should laws like FERPA protect records that existed long before FERPA was passed? Should copyright laws protect interviews that were conducted before the laws were put into place, or should the interviews and the student records be grandfathered in? And since such documents are protected under these laws, should the same laws still apply after the student/interviewee are deceased? The answer to these questions may be very black and white according to law, but to the archivist it is not so clear. To end on a happy note, however, I have included a photo of a view from the BMC Lake Eden location as an example of the wonderful views that the students had to use as inspiration in their art, writing, and environmental studies!BMC Lake Eden

Even on the Dullest of Days, There is Always Something to Learn

 

This blog entry is to serve the (very late) account of my time spent at the WRA on August 8th as well as August 25th. While Heather’s original intention was for us to focus on the Folkmoot collection as it is very close to completion, the archives received a small unexpected collection that would take only a day to process, so together Heather and I tackled that instead. This collection, the LEAF Community Arts collection, comes from the LEAF (Lake Eden Arts Festival) non-profit organization and contains promotional materials (such as posters, broadsides, festival programs, etc.) for each festival that the organization has put since its inception in 1995. LEAF put on one three-day festival that year, which took place in October. Since that first year, LEAF has successfully hosted two festivals each year—the three-day festival in October and a two-day festival in the Spring—as well as launching a youth outreach program called “LEAF in Schools and Streets,” LEAF International, and a festival in downtown Asheville. Before we even began, the collection only consisted of six boxes. As it turns out, much of the contents were duplicates while we only needed two copies of each item. At this point we would typically consider how we want to organize the collection, but thankfully this was already done for us. While most collections come in completely unorganized, the LEAF collection came pre-organized chronologically.

Perhaps the biggest challenge (and what made processing this collection a unique experience for me) was the issue of mold that we encountered. As Heather and I began sorting through the first box, we immediately realized that the original folders and documents were damp. Much of the contents of box one had been subjected to moisture and as a result were either warped, moldy, were stuck together (clay-coating, the slick, shiny material that posters are coated with apparently turn into a natural glue of sorts when wet and stick to each other), or had insect damage. Though we would typically take two samples of each item (i.e. two of the same poster—one for researchers to handle and touch and one for the archive to keep safe and in good condition), some of the contents were so damaged that we only took one—or in some cases none—to keep from introducing mold into the archives where it could potentially infect other collections. As unfortunate as it was to turn away certain posters and flyers, collections that have been exposed to water are forever considered high-risk and those types of things simply couldn’t be kept with all the other important documents that are harbored in the WRA. We were understandably relieved when there was very little water damage in box two and next to non in boxes three and four. We ended up being able to keep a very good sample! Since LEAF promotes arts of all kinds, the posters, flyers, and programs were all very colorful and had unique and beautiful artwork on it.

The above mentioned experience was far more eventful and interesting than my time spent at the archives on August 25th. I spent six hours at the archives on the 25th, and the majority of this time was spent scanning photographs in the computer! Heather had originally planned to have a productive day with me, but the archives had a visitor that… spent quite a lot of time talking to Heather. As a result, I was put to the task of scanning in photos from the Black Mountain College Collection for a researcher. As it was the first week of school, I was utterly exhausted and so the five to ten seconds that it took for each photo to be scanned in felt like an eternity! I did, however, experience a vital part of the job of archivist, which is assisting researchers in any way possible. It just so happened that this researcher needed countless photos scanned and sent to them via email. I also received a second hand experience in the politics of archiving. The guest that visited the archives was not altogether unpleasant, but her the length of her stay was far longer than expected and as a result I missed out on a lot of work that required Heather’s direction/supervision. However, this person is connected in the world of archives, museums, and history and so it would have been extremely inappropriate to cut the visit short. This, I think, goes back to the issues that I encountered in Hands-On History. The world of archiving and curating, of history, of different groups with different agendas, it is all connected. In order to receive respect and attention for your institution, for instance, you must give the same respect and attention to another institution. At least I was able to connect with Heather before I left and get some useful literature to read on different types of photographs and how to care and preserve them! While clearly one of the most dull days that I have had at the WRA, it just goes to show you that there is always something to learn.