Things are coming together!

I am not sure how I felt about all the tools that we learned about during our trip to the library. I could not see some of them fitting into our vision of the website while other tools, such as TimeMapper, I saw as being potentially very useful. In some cases (as with TimeMapper) I saw the plugin being exactly what I was looking for in an interactive, which forced me to rethink the interactives that the computer gaming folks would be creating for us. If I could create the interactive map that I wanted all on my own, then what would they do? Other plugins, such as the Juxtapose slider, I didn’t really see as working for our project (despite how neat it was). Who knows, maybe a juxtaposed picture of the BMC campus before and after the studies building was built would be an interesting addition to our website. I also wasn’t overly fond of StoryMap. It seemed a little messy and confusing to me. Regardless of whether or not I want to use all of these digital tools, I was impressed by how much can be done at home by someone who isn’t even necessarily knowledgeable about technology.

My group and I went down to the Western Regional Archives on Thursday for a little meet-and-greet with our collection. This not only allowed us to get a better idea of exactly what was in the collection, it also allowed us to split up the workload accordingly. I think for the most part we have settled on a few different categories on our tool bar: home, the college campus during the war, refugees who came to BMC during the war, teachers and students who were drafted/enlisted/went to work for the government, and the G.I. Bill. As far as I am aware, I will be covering the “home front” while Joe works on the individuals who fought and Keira works with refugees. I’m not sure yet how we will deal with the G.I. Bill… it could be that one person covers the “home” page while the other two deal with the G.I. Bill. At any rate, splitting up the workload will allow us to visit the archives separately and on our own time. It was hard enough arranging one visit together because of our different schedules. The option to work independently of the other two was a necessity.

Joe and I also talked to our computer gaming partners today and got a better idea of what we can do as far as interactive go. The gaming folks were interested in an interactive map of sorts, like Google Maps—a map where you can zoom down to street level. I wasn’t sure how this would work with our actual topics until visiting the archives this afternoon. As it turns out, the studies building that was built by the faculty and students was built shortly before the U.S. entered the war but while the war had already begun in Europe. Because of this, construction supplies were harder to come by. Heather said that there are interviews referring to this. The building also had to remain only partially complete until after the war as all extra materials were going towards war efforts and much of the campus (both male and female students and faculty) had left. Apparently the wormy chestnut wood for the walls of the halls in the building could not be completed until after the war. As a result, everyone had a chronic rash because they were constantly exposed to the insulation. Our talk today with the computer groups and my visit to the archives really helped a lot come together! The computer groups also let us know what sort of materials they needed from the archive to build their 3-D model of the buildings of our choosing. They also expressed interest in visiting the archives (which I wholeheartedly encouraged as they can tell Heather exactly what sorts of blueprints and picture they would be needing). We still need to narrow our focus a good deal, but I can finally see things coming together a bit.

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Viewing Historical Websites- What Works and What Doesn’t.

I did have some initial thoughts when browsing the Century America site: I thought UNCA’s contribution to the Century America site was well done. It was organized and I did not feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that the site provided. The University of Mary Washington’s site was attractive as well. Eastern Connecticut’s site was nice, but I noticed that there was a loading symbol towards the top of the introduction paragraph that didn’t go away. This confused me a little… was there supposed to be something there that I just wasn’t seeing? I did like how they included the menu at the bottom, though. I had a similar thought as I was immersed in one of our readings that discussed keeping the page neat and tidy. I really liked Massachusetts College’s “Browse the Headlines” section! What a great way to showcase primary sources! A few of the pages were nice but seemed to have a lot of empty space around the text. This made the page seem somewhat empty. Overall, I liked the organization of the site. I thought it had a really nice flow to it.

I thought the Valley of the Shadow website was awesome! I liked how it had a short blurb describing the site’s purpose before one even enters the site. Beyond that, I loved the navigational system for the Before, During, and After the war periods. What a great way to organize all the information! I did not feel like the site for the 1919 Molasses Flood was as intuitive. Perhaps it’s my extreme lack of skills where technology is concerned, but it took me a good deal longer to understand this site. I liked the Mapping the Republic of Letters, but some of the font was very tiny. This made it much harder to read. Navigating through some of the data on the site was a little confusing, but I was able to figure it out relatively quickly. The Emilie Davis Diaries site was interesting. I like how it included an area for comments. As the administrators of the site pointed out (in a response to a visitor who helped decipher a piece of Emilie’s handwriting that the administrators had previously been unsure about), every set of eyes helps. Because of this visitor’s ability to comment on something that they saw when looking through the diaries, potentially more of Emilie’s handwriting has been translated. I thought the ability to comment and start a conversation might be nice on our website as well, as it would allow individuals living in this area during WWII to comment and connect, to share their experiences and memories of this area at that time. The Virtual Paul’s Cross website was amazing! It was very in depth and I could see easily getting lost in it, but the information that was included on the website was phenomenal.

I think for me personally, I felt that simplicity worked the best. I liked the websites that were set up so that menus were out of the way, little blurbs were included on the home page that stated the purpose and contents of the site, and the website itself wasn’t a maze of pages. I also liked the websites that had additional videos and audio. The St. Paul’s Cathedral website had audio of what a typical day in the square would sound like and then what the same square would sound like as it filled up with individuals waiting to hear a sermon. I noticed additions like this on the websites drew me in, made me feel more involved with the topic that was being covered. For our project I thought it would be neat to get a hold of some of the letters written back and forth between individuals from BMC who were drafted and those who remained at the college and to record people reading these letters. Since nearly every (if not all) faculty and students had an official picture on file, I also liked the idea of displaying the picture of the individual who wrote the letter. I am certainly glad I had the opportunity to view so many different historical websites with such a variety of layouts, content, and added media.

Disaster Preparedness

In light of the recent fires in the area, I decided to discuss a lesser-talked about aspect of archiving. When people think of archives, they usually think about private or state institutions that house specific collections, such as the Black Mountain College Collection, that help us interpret history. In reality, archives often contain administrative records from various businesses. For instance, just today Heather and I dug into minutes from the Bank of Black Mountain. I have also sorted records from a local economic development group at the WRA and have seen records from other businesses in the area. These administrative records come from local establishments and so it is understandable that some archivists, such as Heather, will often reach out to these places to help them better understand how to take care of these documents while they are still housed at the business.

Having a disaster plan in place as well as disaster supplies readily on hand and knowing what organizations around you to approach if you need help cuts down drastically on response time to disasters. In the case of the most recent wild fires—and particularly the one that destroyed hotels and homes in Gatlinburg—it helps to know what items are absolutely necessary. For instance, if a hotel is on file, there may be certain documents that only exist in paper form in the office and should be given priority. Having these papers in a central, easily accessible location allows the business to remove them quickly if there is a fire and the building must be evacuated immediately. Information that is kept electronically should be backed up, but the backup should not be kept in the same location as the originals. (This should be common sense… should be.) To help ward off potential disasters such as these, Heather and a group of other archivists and museum and library professionals helped revitalized a group called MACREN (Mountain Area Cultural Resources Emergency Network). Some of the things that MACREN has put together to help other organizations and businesses are a list of sources for reliable information on methods of preservation for different materials, a questionnaire on preservation preparedness, handbooks containing information on preservation and emergency procedures, preservation pails (which include supplies that can be used during emergencies, like a tarp, rope, scissors, etc.), and an electronic newsletter that has how-to articles for the salvaging and recovery of items. MACREN members have also gone to muesums, libraries, and historical sites in the area to help with disasters. Heather has shown me pictures of a library that she and others visited to help out with a disaster. A pipe had burst on the second floor of the building that the library was in. After a while, the weight of the water caused the ceiling of the first floor—the library—to collapse. The head librarian estimated Heather and other members of MACREN saved them a few thousand dollars by helping them dry out books appropriately. Being an organization specific to this region, MACREN may not be the first choice to help the businesses of Gatlinburg recover and salvage items (although I am sure they would not refuse). However, there are other organizations available. North Carolina has a statewide organization called Crest. There is also a national organization called the National Heritage Responders (NHR).

This is just the tip of the iceberg for preservation, salvage, and recovery. The topic itself is expansive! There are certain techniques for salvaging different metals, fabrics, furniture, wood, different types of paper, animal skins, etc. Likewise there are specialists in each are to call upon. MACREN, Crest, and the NHR have as many specialists as would like to join that they can refer to in any given situation. To give you a good idea of some of the things that MACREN has put together to help others become better prepared, I have attached a few documents discussing sources of reliable information on preservation, a list of basic items for disaster preparedness, and the questionnaire that MACREN gives to those inquiring about disaster readiness.

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The International Civil Rights Museum

While this blog entry does not focus strictly on experiences from my internship, it could not be more relevant to my thoughts and focuses of late. After discussing the interpretation of sensitive information with Heather, I ended up visiting the International Civil Rights Museum. This trip could not have been more perfect timing! After discussing the theory, I got to see the results of undertaking such an endeavor. In my talks with Heather, she mentioned being transparent as a method for presenting sensitive topics/images to the public. She gave the example of the Museum of the New South in Charlotte. The mere topic is touchy enough, but certain subtopics within the museum cause particular alarm. For instance, the museum includes pictures of lynching. As a student of history I believe this is the correct thing to do as these terrible events are indeed part of our history. However, these images may not be something that parents want their children to see. Since the museum still wanted to include these images as part of their exhibit, they simply put a cover over the photos with a disclaimer on or around the cover stating the images underneath were graphic and the viewer must take full responsibility for looking underneath the covers. This enabled the museum to make such history available to those who wished to learn about the topic without angering those who did not want to or were not ready to view such things. This trip would also give me a chance to take notice of other important aspects of creating exhibits, such as the space, information given, and the ways this information was given to patrons. With this in mind, I went to the International Civil Rights Museum.

My initial reaction was to notice what information the museum included in their exhibit and how they went about arranging this information. The lobby of the museum was open and airy, colored with blacks and grays and whites with a welcome desk in the center, a gift shop on the right, and a hallway on the left where the tours begin. In the lobby there were a few large panels, similar to panels that I have seen in WRA exhibits. I am not sure what the material is, but it is similar to the material used to make banners. These panels were hanging perpendicular to the floor and had both text and images arrange in an attractive manner so as to not overwhelm the reader too much of one or the other. Our tour guide was a young woman who thankfully had a booming voice, as our group was rather large and ended up growing during the tour. We began by examining an excerpt from the constitution declaring our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and what this really meant (white landowning males are the only people who have the right to these liberties). We then went into the “Hall of Shame.” This was a particularly important room for me as it held many images that were graphic. The tour guide stopped our group prior to entering the exhibit to make sure that everyone knew what lay behind the doors and giving them an option not to view the Hall of Shame if they had any reservations. I thought this was beautifully done and the way the images in the hall were laid out—each picture broken into a couple of pieces arranged closely together and raised so that there was light behind and around them—naturally drew the eye… as if more effort was needed. The images were naturally horrific. They included lynchings, people who had been beaten in various ways, and even a picture of Emmett Till. I couldn’t even make out his face. I wanted this, though. I wanted the discomfort and pain and sadness. I wanted the trauma of seeing things as they really happened and not just the whitewashed version of history that I was taught as a child.

As we moved on, we saw a video recreating the night before the famous sit-in of the A&T Four. We also saw a recreation of the dorm room where they planned their event (complete with authentic furniture donated by the school), the actual bar and stool and decorations of the Woolworth where the sit-in too place (it was all arranged as it had been in 1960), and went through a maze of walls and panels discussing different aspects of life and segregation. The tour guide made sure to point out the claustrophobic nature of the small space we were in and how this small, confusing, twisting maze of a space was much like segregation—complicated and hard to navigate. I enjoyed the fact that she pointed this out. Although it was impossible not to be aware of the confined space, I probably would not have made this connection immediately. Afterward, however, I doubt there was a single person in the group who did not think of this association while attempting to weave, scoot, squeeze, and inch around each other. I also thought it was a brilliant use of space. Although the museum had plenty of artifacts and literature, it took the experience to a whole new level that included the patron in a way that perhaps they didn’t sign up for, but that was effective in conveying the message on a deeper level than may have been experienced otherwise.

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. I found it to be both instructive, humbling, and—dare I say—encouraging in these times of uncertainty. Although museum curating is not technically the job of an archivist, the museum was nonetheless fitting in its timing as the topic of sensitive information was still burning strongly in my mind. Besides, although my interest lies with archiving, a degree in Library Science opens the door to museum work for me as well. Perhaps my interests will develop or grow in these next few years. Regardless of whether I decide to pursue archiving or museum curating, the International Civil Rights Museum holds tremendous value to my understanding of collecting, interpreting, and displaying information to create a meaningful story.

History: Warts and All

Lately the subject of representation of sensitive topics has come up in my Humanities 324 class. This led me to question the topic from an archivist’s point of view, so I asked Heather about it. How, for instance, would an archivist (or even museum or exhibit curator) interpret subjects like racism, lynching, the Holocaust, or the Confederacy? I find that people often get very upset when approached with these topics because they make them feel uncomfortable, guilty, emotional or defensive. As a student of history, this is sometimes difficult for me to understand. I don’t view facts of history as particularly offensive or perhaps I do, but I see my emotional reaction as a chance to explore the subject and my reaction to it. Either way, I do not believe censoring history does anyone any favors and is, in fact, a blatant attempt ignore fact and construct history to fit one’s own wishes and is detrimental to society’s understanding of past events. But what does an archivist think about this and how does it influence their work?

First Heather pointed out other reasons why documents in the archive would be restricted. Within the Black Mountain College Collection, for example, there are student files that are restricted because of laws prohibiting the release of student grades and records. Documents can also be restricted due to their physical condition. If a document’s integrity may be easily compromised, archivists obviously would prohibit patrons from handling it. If possible, the archivist may find another way to allow patrons to view the document such as scanning or photocopying it. Then again, a document or collection may be restricted based on the wishes of the donor. What I am interested in, however, is how or why an archivist or curator would restrict information for fear of offending patrons. Heather had a couple of interesting things to say on the subject. First was that, although history should not be whitewashed, one still needs to be sensitive to the climate around them. (One of Heather’s favorite sayings is history is history—warts and all.) She used the Zebulon Vance exhibit that the WRA did as an example. Instead of focusing on Vance as a slave owner (a very sensitive topic lately), the talked about the other things that Vance did in or for the area. She pointed out there are still ways of approaching a topic or a person without focusing on the offensive. Then she said something that had a tremendous impact on me; she said that historians have an argument to prove, but archivists were just there to present facts. This really made me think. All of this time I have been approaching my internship from a historian point of view. While it may seem easy to distinguish the two in one’s mind, I find it quite difficult to turn off Historian Kristen and turn on Archivist Kristen. I still plan on pursuing a degree in this field, and I am sure that time will encourage my archiving abilities, but for now this is something that I must remain aware of.

Conservation vs. Preservation- I finally understand the difference.

This week I revisited conservation at the WRA. A volunteer had an old newspaper from the 1940s and wished to have the very back page to be mended as it had a large advertisement of her family’s business on it. Since the paper was from Pennsylvania, it did not fall into the WRA’s jurisdiction, but Heather was happy to help out since it was for a long-time volunteer and so she set me to the task. To mend the paper I used a water soluble, heat-set tissue and a small soldering iron. I had performed this same procedure last semester so I already knew how to go about the mending. First, I had to rip bits of the tissue off of the sheet of tissue. It is especially important that the tissue is ripped as this would ensure that there are individual stray strands of fabric that would cling to the newspaper when heated. After the bit of tissue is arranged over the whole or tear that it is meant to cover, I took the soldering iron and simply applied heat to the tissue. This caused the tissue to melt to near invisibility, creating a patch and stabilizing the newspaper. This particular tissue is also water soluble, meaning if for any reason the patch needed to be removed, one could easily do so with water. The soldering iron is also important as the heat can be adjusted based on the needs of the paper being mended. Some paper may scorch more easily than other papers.

In regards to theory and method, this experience allowed me to further explore preservation and conservation with Heather. Admittedly, I got the two terms confused at first. Preservation is the continued protection of documents or items that are already stable. Examples of preservation are acid-free folders, archiving appropriate boxes, and putting documents in a climate controlled environment. Conservation, on the other hand, is when an archivist or conservationist has to work to stabilize a document before it can be placed into an appropriate place for safekeeping. In some cases, conservation work is necessary to prevent further decaying of the document. Mending the newspaper was a minor form of conservation and was essential for maintaining the integrity of the newspaper. However, as we are not trained conservationists, our work on the paper was very minor. Should the document in need of repair be important, rare, or valuable, it would be sent to a professional conservationist. The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources employees a trained conservationist, but she is stationed in Raleigh and serves the all the branches of the NCDNCR. She may have over a hundred of requests at any given time for items needing her attention. That being the case, if an item is in need of minor attention, Heather simply performs the conservation at the WRA instead of sending it off. I left with a better understanding of preservation, conservation, and the intricacies of bureaucracy.

Policies, Procedures, and Hurricanes

My time spent at the WRA today was devoted to learning about the security and administrative aspects of archiving. The first part of my time was spent with Sarah Downing. Security and procedures were topics that were particularly relevant today as the headquarters for North Carolina archives in Raleigh just sent out a copy of the policy for stack procedures to the archivists (the stacks are where the collections are kept). Since Sarah had to step away for a few minutes and Heather was not at the WRA at that particular moment, I volunteered to remain in the research room to answer the phone and assist anyone who might come in. It was therefore important that I know a few things since I would be alone (with two semi-new volunteers). The policy as dictated by the state indicates that no one, save for staff and volunteers, are allowed to be in the stacks. Even so, it is recommended that anyone entering the stacks signs in. Now, this isn’t always practical. In the case of Sarah and Heather, they may go into the stacks numerous times a day, so signing in every time just doesn’t make sense. Policies like these are open to slight changes, of course. The policy for the stacks at the Outer Banks History Center (where Sarah was last stationed) does not allow volunteers into the stacks until they have been there for a certain period of time and have gained the trust of the employees. We also discussed other policies, such as what items are allowed in the search room and the proper procedure to request permission to use images from the archives in published works.

The overall theme was, of course, security and maintaining order in the archives. It is always of the utmost importance to know exactly what is going on in one’s archives at all times. Limiting who has access to collections (within the stacks) and what items, such as food, liquids, or large backpacks, may be in the same room as the collections when researchers are using them helps protect the unique—and sometimes fragile—documents that researchers are working with. It also ensures that no items will go missing or become misplaced if a researcher attempts to return the item to its shelf in the stacks. When Heather came in, we also discussed archival procedures. Its appears that during the last hurricane (Matthew?) this year, the state archives in Raleigh experienced flooding in their basement. However, due to observances of proper safety measures, nothing was harmed. The main practice that saved the collections was the fact that the bottom shelves of the bookcases that house the collections were at least three inches off the ground. As a matter of fact, they were about six inches off the ground. Although six inches is well above the recommended height, it is a much safer height than three inches. The head archivist at the location also acted quickly, removing all collections from the area and hiring a professional industrial hygienist to come and clean the area properly. Her quick response ensured the safety of the documents in her care. While I did not work with my Duberman project as much, it was an instructive day that provided a lot of valuable information. In discussing my desire to increase my knowledge on such procedures, Heather has given me some literature to read and said that we will spend some time in the near future focusing on how to handle disasters.

 

WWI and Killing Birds with Stones

In the time since my last post (I cannot apologize enough for my tardiness! Please rest assured that I am in fact spending time with the archives!), I have continued with the same project that I recently started. Going through and Martin Duberman’s interviews has turned out to be a far slower process than I had initially expected, although it is not without its rewards. I am still going through Eric Bentley’s interview (it is quite long) and have found quite a few things that will help me on a personal project in the future. I am also starting to get a feel for the different voices and players and particularly big events at BMC. Although I am only on my third interview, I have come across multiple mentions of the same events, such as the catastrophic breaking up of the college, as well as individuals’ personal opinions, reflections, and recollections of other staff members and students. The opinions and reflections are particularly interesting to me. Let us take one example: Josef Albers. Simply known as Albers, he was a dynamic figure at the school from the beginning. While some remember him as a quiet man who was lost in the world of his art, some (such as Bently) remembers him as quiet and cordial but also ready to take sides in some of the bigger arguments if need be. He also remembers him as having… um…  inclinations towards the girls, but restraining himself. In fact, it is a known but little discussed fact that Albers had an affair with a student.

I had another interesting experience this week at the building where the WRA is located–the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. I had the pleasure of attending Dr Pearson and Ashley McGhee’s World War I presentation! The presentation itself was wonderful and gave me a great idea of the type of work that I would be doing next semester in Digital History, but more importantly it was also an opportunity to see the types of events that take place here.  What was particularly special about this lecture was the fact that I had little to nothing to do with it (save for helping out a bit with the exhibit). This means that I had a slightly more objective view of the event that evening. My internship and future plans are focused on archiving, of course, but this does not mean that I will not be asked to step in and help with other things, such as arranging exhibits or helping set up and promote lectures. Why, I found out about the lecture from the WRA’s Facebook page! I am also sure that, if Heather had been in town, she would have been there in a heartbeat and had and would have done everything she could have to help the presenters that evening. On a completely unrelated note, I also got to use this lecture as a cultural event for Humanities 324. That’s like killing… what? 4 birds with one stone? A win-win-win-win for me!

Reconstructing BMC… From My Own Home

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been deeply immersed in my newest project—reviewing and cataloging main topics in the Martin Duberman interviews. Duberman is the author of Black Mountain: an Exploration in Community. For his book, Duberman interviewed many former students and teachers of Black Mountain College. (Most of) the interviews have been released to the public, but researchers till run into the problem of shuffling through the extensive amount of materials in hopes of finding a specific topic that they are looking for. My task is to read through each individual interview and create a list of major topics or theme for each. Take, for instance, Josef and Anni Albers. The interview with them contained information about the past, education, how they came to be at BMC, relationships and interactions with other individuals at the college, their individual contributions to art, etc. I took at least 3 pages of notes on the Albers’ alone! The amount of materials that I have to work through is slightly daunting, but this has been perhaps my favorite project to date. As indicated in my last post, I am planning on doing my senior research project on BMC and how aspects of Marxist theory were woven into the politics and community life of the college. I have already run into multiple topics of interest to investigate for my project just within the first two days! I tremble to think of what else I will run into over the course of this semester! When I complete the interviews and my list, I will make a word document that can be used by researchers to see whether or not a certain topic is mentioned in an interview. This will save researchers a huge amount of time that they may then devote to examining other materials for their studies.

As enjoyable as this project is (and will continue to be, I’m sure), I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take me to go through the interviews. In my first day I only made it through the first 36 pages of the Albers’ interview, and that was only half! Some interviews have close to or over 100 pages. I am positive that I will get faster, but I was still surprised. I had expected the work to go by much quicker. Although there is a very good chance that I will not get faster, as I have also run across the issue of getting lost in the interviews, something that is actually quite easy to do. Upon going through the Albers’ interview (which was the first that I did), I realized that I would spend a large chunk of time on a single page because I has such a desire to absorb everything that was being said as opposed to picking out major topics. Although I know I should try to work on this particular problem of mine, I don’t really know if I want to… because I am enjoying the interviews so much! Reconstructing the world of BMC is completely, utterly fascinating. One major perk of this particular project is the fact that, since the interviews are all released to the public and since the archive allows copies of materials to be made, I have the ability to make copies of the interviews and work from home. As soon as Heather informed me of this possibility, I immediately made plans to take advantage of this! I currently have three interviews resting beside me, just waiting for me to peruse them in the relaxation of my own office! Needless to say, I am very excited about the opportunities and knowledge that this project has and promised to continue providing.

Moonshine, Woodrow Wilson, and Marxism

It has been quite some time since my last post (and for that I apologize), so I have quite a bit to catch you up on! A few weeks back, the Black Mountain College conference was hosted at the Reuter Center on the UNCA campus. Since the WRA holds the majority of the BMC papers, the archives were crawling with last minute researchers the day before! The WRA was also in the process of installing a new World War I exhibit. Needless to say, we were kept busy from start to finish! My first task was to put up a very small exhibit on moonshine. Said exhibit now resides on the third floor just outside of the elevator. After lunch, Heather and I returned to the archive to work on the WWI exhibit. As there has been only a handful of times that I have gotten the opportunity to work on an actual exhibit, I thoroughly enjoyed exercising my creative abilities to create an interactive and attractive exhibit for guests to look at. Perhaps the highlight of my time working on the exhibit was getting to hold a hymnal that belonged to Woodrow Wilson! After the exhibit was complete, Heather and I rejoined Sarah to help researchers with any needs they may have, including pulling more information for them, scanning photos or documents in to be emailed to them, or making copies of documents so they may take them home.

The next day I spent a few hours volunteering for the BMC conference. I include this as part of my internship since much of the information used came directly from our archives. Heather also wanted me to see as much of the conference as possible to see how the information that we provide is turned into presentations and papers. For the most part I spent my time working at the table that sold books, totes, and other BMC paraphernalia (including Heather’s book, Images of America: Black Mountain College). However, I did get a chance to listen to most of the presentation given by the keynote speaker, Helen Molesworth, discussing art and Black Mountain College.

The following week I spent Thursday at the archives. Again there were researchers to be helped, but I also talked to Heather about the next project that she wanted me to do. This particular project is inspired by the topic that I plan on exploring as a possibility for my senior paper–the effects of Marxist theory on Black Mountain College. Since my topic pertains directly to BMC, Heather asked me if I would like to go through the Ted Dreier papers (a sub-series within the BMC collection) and do an item-level description for the remaining boxes that have not yet been done. Heather believes this will help me become more familiar with BMC, its history, the people that were there, and the politics of the place. She also had me look through a book, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community by Martin Duberman, believing (and rightly so) that this would also help me become better acquainted with the world of BMC. Duberman also specifically talked about certain teachers that were accused of being Marxists or at the very least sympathizers. Some teachers were outright in their support of Marxism. On the whole, however, the staff at BMC claimed to be avid anti-Marxists. This does not stop me from thinking, however, that BMC utilized certain aspects of Marxist theory that led to the formation of a socialist democracy. I believe this quasi-Marxist society helps to support another Marxist theory- that of alienation in capitalist, industrial societies. It seems to me that the staff and students of BMC did not experience alienation in the same extreme levels that individuals experienced (and still experience) in predominantly capitalist democracies. Look at me, going off on a tangent about my studies! Perhaps this is precisely why Heather is putting me to the task of working with the BMC collection! One of Heather’s talents is pairing people with topics that they love.

I have attached a couple of pictures for your enjoyment!I am back at the archive today, so I am sure that I will have plenty more to report soon enough!

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Inside of Woodrow Wilson’s hymnal

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Woodrow Wilson’s hymnal

 

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Part of the Moonshine exhibit at the WRA for “Archives Month: From Moonshine to Microbrews”