THERE’S AN ARCHIVIST FOR THAT! INTERVIEW WITH ASHTON WINGATE, THE DIGITAL ARCHIVIST OF THE NAACP LEGAL AND EDUCATIONAL DEFENSE FUND, INC.

Ashton Wingate, Digital Archivist of the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, Inc.

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect. COPA member Rachael Woody, owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC, brings you an interview with Ashton Wingate, the Digital Archivist of the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, Inc. (LDF).

Ashton Wingate currently works for the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, Inc. (LDF), where he preserves the organization’s 80 year history in the fight for racial justice, equality and an inclusive society. To learn more about Wingate, please visit his website.

RW: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

AW: On the professional side… I am fairly new in my position, I joined LDF in January of 2019. Previous to becoming a Digital Archivist, I was a librarian in the D.C. Public Library system leading early literacy outreach/programming. My time at the D.C. Public Library taught me a lot and I highly encourage every information professional to work in a public library for at least a little bit of time to understand the power and responsibility of our profession. I am a board member of the National Home Library Foundation and the board treasurer for the Archives Roundtable of Metropolitan New York. Personally, I spend most of my time with my fiancé and our two dogs in our cozy Brooklyn, NY apt which has become MUCH “cozier” during quarantine. I have interests in music, sports, craft beer and cult films. In the past I’ve done radio and podcasting so I’m possibly looking to start that back up if I can find time. I have a small side hustle doing graphic design and building websites for friends and family. If you’re looking to spruce up your personal/professional brand hit me up!

RW: How did you get into archives, or why archives?

AW: After I graduated from undergrad, I spent the first nine months selling cereal for Kellogg’s. Worst job ever! Nothing wrong with Frosted Flakes but I didn’t take the job as seriously as I should have and I am definitely not a salesman. After that didn’t work out, I spent the next 8 years or so in communications for a variety of non-profits and government organizations in Washington, D.C. Eventually, I hit a wall and just wanted to do something different. I saw the advertisement for the Department of Library and Information Science at Catholic University on the train and something just told me to check it out. Looking back on it now, I think access to information is just so big for me. It is probably one of the biggest civil rights issues of our time and I just wanted to be a part of that in some way. Keeping people informed and allowing everyone an equal opportunity to understand more about the world around them is key.

Thurgood Marshall was an influential leader of the civil rights movement. He also had a profound contribution to the NAACP and his legacy lives on in the pursuit of racial justice. 
Thurgood Marshall founded LDF in 1940 and served as its first Director-Counsel. He was the architect of the legal strategy that ended the country’s official policy of segregation. Marshall was the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court on which he served as Associate Justice from 1967-1991 after he was successfully nominated by President Johnson. He retired from the bench in 1991 and passed away on January 24, 1993, in Washington DC at the age of 84. Civil rights and social change came about through meticulous and persistent litigation efforts, at the forefront of which stood Thurgood Marshall and the Legal Defense Fund. Through the courts, he ensured that Blacks enjoyed the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship. 

RW: How did you get your gig at the NAACP-LDF?

AW: Fate? I’m not really sure. I know many people can relate but it’s not easy getting a job in this field especially as a new graduate. Whether it’s the unrealistic expectations/job descriptions or the (sometimes) low pay, it’s difficult to find the right opportunity. I knew that I wanted to move to NYC so that narrowed things down, from there it was a mixture of luck and perseverance. I applied for A LOT of jobs; my heart wasn’t set on just archivist. I was on every job board, every website, contacting friends of friends… I never thought it was going to happen, especially not an opportunity like the one at LDF. I’m eternally grateful to my boss and LDF leadership for taking a chance on me and I can’t imagine working anywhere else or doing anything else with my skills and expertise.

“Our Division is committed to the principle that minority group citizens must be empowered to work for their own liberation. Our role is to heighten their consciousness of their legal rights and to assist them in developing strategies to make bureaucracies accountable,” Jean Fairfax stated in a 1972 report to funders. The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund’s (LDF) Division of Legal Information and Community Service was created in 1965 by Fairfax, who served as the Division’s director until her retirement in 1984.

RW: Please tell us about your work at NAACP-LDF.

AW: The way that I have come to describe our work is that we add historical context to the ongoing conversation about race and its relationship to justice, politics and society. We are tasked with preserving the 80-year history of the country’s most prestigious legal organization fighting for racial justice. From Brown vs. Board of Education to representing Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King, to the current moment we’re facing as a country… it is a daunting task. We are a team of three serving an organization of almost 200 people. We answer reference questions, maintain collections of physical and digital legal and social science research resources, manage records retention and physical box storage as well as work strategically to ensure that each and every legal, policy, educational and community organizing effort is informed by the organization’s rich history. We are a unique archive but we are tackling some of the same problems as others including document management, data governance, training staff and getting buy-in on archival best practices/priorities and of course dealing with budgets and constantly presenting the value proposition for how archives fits within the organization’s mission and vision.

Right now, we’re in the midst of what we’re referring to as an “archives modernization”. With incredible support from LDF leadership and from generous donors, we’ve undergone an evaluation of our current archival structure, policies and procedures which has given us a roadmap going forward on where to invest our time and funding. We plan to update our workflows and processes, strengthen our technological infrastructure, procure new software for e-discovery and box management as well as identifying high priority physical and digital processing projects and work towards sharing our collections publicly through an online research portal containing information about LDF’s 6,000+ cases from 1940-present day. As a law firm, we have yet to open our collections up to the general public due to concerns over privileged and sensitive legal information.

The School Desegregation Task Force was a core program of the Division in the mid-1960s, with Fairfax serving as the project administrator. In a 1967 memo to funders, LDF Director-Counsel Jack Greenberg explained the aims and impact of the task force: “The opportunity for equal education for Negro children was finally at hand, but the problems incident to its realization were overwhelming. The Legal Defense Fund joined with the American Friends Service Committee to create a School Desegregation Task Force which operated in hundreds of local communities, especially in rural areas, in nine southern states.

RW: Please describe the collections or one of your favorite collections.

AW: The core of our collection is pleadings, research, and correspondence related to thousands of cases LDF has litigated. Our holdings also include photographs, videos, policy files, publications, fundraising materials, administrative records, and documentation of LDF’s sustained efforts in community organizing and social science research. We have over 250 boxes of physical material at the Library of Congress and over 10,000 boxes in storage between our New York and DC locations in addition to an ever-increasing amount of digital records.

LDF’s second Director-Counsel Jack Greenberg describes LDF’s ability as an organization to “bridge the gap” among the laws that govern our society, the enforcement of these laws, and the everyday people who are impacted by these laws and practices. He highlights LDF’s focus on not only setting legal precedent, but creating substantive social impact to improve the lives of African Americans.

RW: What are some challenges unique to the collections?

AW: One of the biggest challenges is the fact that we cannot share the information publicly with any level of ease. The majority of our collections is case material and cannot be released publicly without thorough review for privileged and sensitive information. Another challenge is just our relative youth as an archival institution. The archives at LDF was created in 2014/2015 and the majority of our collections have not been processed or digitized. It makes it difficult to fully gain an appreciation or understanding of LDF’s work and impact over the past 80 years. We are steadfast in our mission to work through the backlog of physical material and we’ve highlighted important cases and collections that we will be processing for the next three years. Because we are essentially a non-profit law firm and our retention and document management hasn’t been as strong as it is now, there is a lot of LDF material outside of the archives at other universities, repositories and still hiding in people’s basements! In the past, members of our litigation staff have been transitory, and they’ve taken their papers with them. A long-term goal for us is to track down these collections, take note of where they are and make efforts to accession them into our collections if the current steward cannot or no longer wishes to preserve them.


Phyllis McClure, author of An Even Chance,  introduces the research as having a “familiar theme:” the misuse of Federal education money intended to benefit poor and minority children. According to a 1971 LDF annual report, “the impact of this report on Governmental agencies responsible for the education of Indian children has been stunning. The facts revealed in the study present a shocking record of disregard of the rights of Indians guaranteed them by treaties, laws passed by Congress, and laws of individual states. The report opens the way, based on facts, for action to correct wrongs inflicted upon Indian children and their parents.”

RW: What’s your favorite part of the job?

AW: My favorite part of the job is just knowing the importance of my work to the organization’s larger mission and the way in which we are all working together at LDF to meet this moment in time that is so important for civil rights and racial justice.

RW: What advice to you have for aspiring archivists?

  1. Believe in yourself! Shake the imposters syndrome as best you can.
  2. Advocate for what you need to do your job well.
  3. Join a board or professional network to continue to make connections and see different aspects of our field.
  4. Do whatever it takes to get the job done. Specialization is nice and important in some ways but to me there’s no difference between an archivist, a digital archivist, a librarian or a records manager… everyone on our team is doing all of that because that’s what the job calls for.
  5. Be visible in your organization. As a department, don’t hide in the archives, get out there and offer your services wherever there is opportunity for collaborative work. Share your successes. As an individual, just try to be seen. I always try to find some way to be helpful to leadership so they know they can depend on me. I also try to be vocal during meetings so that people know I’m there.

RW: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

It is our organization’s 80th Anniversary, keep your eyes out for the launch of our timeline covering 80 years of groundbreaking legal milestones in the fight for civil rights. It was a heavy lift for our department digging up archival information on over 100 cases as well as biographies on important figures and finding ways to relate the historic moments to the work we’re doing today. It’s something we’re proud of and it is coming soon! Check this link for more information: https://80th.naacpldf.org/

It’s not The Distance, “It’s the Niggers.” Comments on the Controversy Over School Busing, May 1972, attempted to “bring facts and reason to bear on the current hysterical and politicized discussion about busing,” said Fairfax. The report found that “busing for integration…has not required a major reallocation of scarce funds and has usually been accepted once plans have been implemented.”

Also, I want to put in another plug for the Archives Roundtable of New York. It is an awesome organization; membership is super affordable, and we do our best to make sure we’re contributing to the archivist community in a real way. We’ve just launched a mentorship program and a skill-share and we have office hours every other Tuesday where members can call in and talk about whatever is going on professionally. We also have an open call for submissions to our quarterly publication the Metropolitan Archivist and a call for proposals for a virtual symposium that we’re holding as part of our Archives Week event this fall. More information can be found at www.nycarchivists.org.


While the LDF collections are closed, the archives does accept external inquires on a case by case basis. You can email your request to this address: archives@naacpldf.org.

THERE’S AN ARCHIVIST FOR THAT! INTERVIEW WITH ANNETTE LA RUE FROM ELECTROMAGNETIC TATTOO AND ADAM JEFFERY FROM THE BALTIMORE TATTOO MUSEUM BY ALLISON TERMINE

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect. Allison Termine, brings you an interview with Adam Jeffery, the Tattooer, Collector of The Baltimore Tattoo Museum (est. 1999) and Annette La Rue, Tattooer, Collector from Electromagnetic Tattoo in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Interviewer: Allison Termine, I’m a trained Librarian, Archivist and Collections Manager, learning Taxonomy and Ontology. Capturing the essence of nostalgia in my life has always led me to activities, professional and personal, where I had the opportunity to observe, record, preserve, display, learn and organize primary and secondary material of history.

Image by Annette La Rue of Paul Rogers.

INTRODUCTION

The pioneering style in the trade of tattooing is called Americana. Knowledge of this trade was passed down orally by August “Cap” Coleman, 1884-1973 and Franklin Paul Rogers, 1905-1990, the for-father’s, what remains is tattoo ephemera and an oral tradition that lives on today through those they taught. Important historical artifacts of modern electric tattooing exist in various collections who are archivists in their own right. It is a treat to interview two artists and collectors of the Tattoo Trade to learn of a niche subculture through its remnants / ephemera. Just like other collected historical archives, provenance of the Tattoo Trade is based on oral dissemination and the now primary objects that were used to apply the final product were secondary to them and therefore have become a nostalgic link to the past. Such object items are; the tattoo machines, drawings on fragile tracing paper, business cards, pictures, adapted furniture for the tattoo sitting, banners, and flash to name a few. These accidental archivists, interviewed are artists and collectors and are what I consider boots on the ground archivists. A term that describes the importance of gathering material in the present time, which they have done throughout their career in the Tattoo Trade.

*To discover an in depth history of the origins of Americana Tattooing visit:
http://www.tattooarchive.com/index.php and
https://selvedgeyard.com/2009/07/21/forefathers-of-american-tattooing/.

Image by Annette La Rue. Pictured is a Paul Rogers original tracing paper flash from “Sailor Eddies” Shop in Camden, New Jersey 1971. With additional acetate stencil rubbing of a “Cap” Colemans’ drawing reworked by Sailor Jerry.

Our first interview is with Annette La Rue of Electromagnetic Tattoo, Chesapeake Virginia. Find her shop owned by her and her husband Steve Tiberi, also a tattooer and collector on Instagram @electromagnetictattoo, @annettlelarulex, and @tiberitattoo.

Image by Allison Termine. Annette La Rue and I doing conservation work, on a banner made by her friend, Ernie “Ernie the hat” Gosnell, of her former tattoo shop in New Orleans, Louisiana. Electric LadyLand.

Q: As a Tattooer of 30 years can you tell me about the history of Americana Tattooing?

Americana style tattooing means a bold colorful style consisting of bold thick outlines, solid black shading and bright solid colors. Americana tattooing was popular among sailors and circuses at the turn of the century. Most tattooers traveled with the circus or went to busy Navy port towns. It was seedy and frowned upon to have ink on your skin until the late 90’s into the 2000’s.

Image by Allison Termine. The Electric LadyLand banner made by, Ernie “Ernie the hat” Gosnell, of Annette La Rue’s former tattoo shop in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Q: As a collector of your trade what drove you to save ephemera of the tattoo trade throughout your career? (Your perspective then and now).

I was fascinated with older tools and designs because they connected me to the old ways. Kind of like a bridge to the heroes of yesterday. I felt a little “magic” in those tools. It made me feel like I had a link to the past and it made me proud to have possession of the tools of the trade. Now it’s just more stuff and I’m selling and trading my collection for things I can actually use. I want the younger tattooers to have those objects so they can feel like I did. To own historical tattoo pieces is like instant “cred” for anyone who has it. If you have money, you can be a collector. When I was buying you had to track someone down, go to their shop or house and beg them to sell you things. Now it’s on ebay and craigslist, too easy to get.

Q: Can you tell me about the significance of early tattoo machines and how the knowledge of building them was passed on and evolved through the years?

At the time there was no significance to old tattoo machines; they were simply a tool to make money. Tattooers would travel and visit each other and learn different ways to build machines. Most machine builders have their own style or frame configuration. They would mail parts and write about the secret trick they had to make to make their machines better. There was a lot of friendly competition between tattooers. Some builders got famous and some were more obscure. Machines from the old times are very valuable today. When the old guys died a lot of families were embarrassed about the line of work and tons were thrown out, leaving a few for younger tattooers to scourge to find them. Good builders would invite younger ones to come build and learn. You could spend the day or a few weeks with a builder and get secrets and tips while making your machine. A smart person would go to everyone’s house they could and did blend all the knowledge and make it on his or her own. This is significant because the younger generation needed to know the tips of the trade in order to keep machines up and running and it also helped the young guys to progress using old ways.

Q: If the collected ephemera of Americana Tattooing is the result of a trade learned orally, could you tell us about how the forefathers of Americana Tattooing influenced this particular style that remains “timeless” and how it has lasting power today over all other styles of tattooing being applied to skin?

I believe Americana style remains timeless because the designs were timeless. From the 1800’s to the late 1990’s an eagle looked like an eagle. A rose was a rose. You could tell what it was in two seconds. That is what makes it timeless. Today’s tattoos are trendy and you can tell if someone got it in their 90’s or early 2000 or 2010 or 2020 because of the design. They may seem more personal now but they aren’t. People get the same bad trendy design over and over, thinking they are “custom” and they don’t realise we tattooed that same design 40 times that month. Most timeless designs can be changed with different colors or leaves or background etc. Modern designs have not much room to change, as customers want it to look the same.

Image and caption by Annette La Rue. Pictured is a “Cap” Coleman original flash with signature and date, 1948. The significance of owning this sheet of flash is that 72 years ago “Cap” Coleman was in the next town over applying these very designs. This is my favorite piece in my collection and probably priceless.

Q: What is your favorite part of knowing you are an accidental archivist?

My favorite part of knowing I’m an accidental archivist is just knowing I can make young tattooers as excited and happy as I was when I started collecting. Of course these items all increase in value every year. It is the younger Tattooers having interest in keeping this history alive that I find interesting.

Our next interview is with Adam Jeffrey of The Baltimore Tattoo Museum. You can find Adam on Instagram @adamjeffreytattooer, and @thebaltimoretattomuseum.

Q: What are the types or formats of tattoo ephemera that were saved and what makes them significant? For example; how did a single piece of torn tracing paper with a pencil drawing become deemed “to save”, or a business card from Paul Rogers.

At The Baltimore Tattoo Museum we hope to explore the history and artifacts of modern tattooing in the Americana style. When it comes to the types of ephemera we collect that makes them significant are varied. For example, from some artists the art itself was secondary to their abilities to apply tattoos or build and tune tattoo equipment. So there are varying reasons we try to collect the many things we have. Some are significant to the tattooers of our area and the designs of a given town, for example, shipping and navy type tattoos in Baltimore, as it is a major east coast port. In other cases it might be the little inventions they crafted to make their everyday tasks a little easier like, retrofitting an old dental type chair to create better access to an area of skin to be tattooed. In other cases it’s their amazing ability, these untrained artists had to create very well drawn and thought out lasting style designs that even years later folks still would like to have applied to their skin.

Image and caption by Adam Jeffrey from The Baltimore Tattoo Museum. Pictures is a rubbing of an acetate stencil made by Paul Rogers and sent in the mail to Ernie Carafa to share the design to make money. Back then, designs were common and people liked them that way. Uniformity with subtle differences to make it each artist’s own with various colors or background elements.

Q: If the collected ephemera of Americana Tattooing is the result of a trade learned orally, could you tell us about how the forefathers of Americana Tattooing influenced this particular style that remains “timeless” and how it has lasting power today over all other styles of tattooing being applied to skin?

Like us at Baltimore Tattoo and Museum and the majority of tattooers, still apply tattoos with the same electromagnet style tattoo machine they’ve always used. There are even modern makers making the same style frames that were being made in the turn of the century. As well as the same hand motions and application styles that were handed down to get the pigment under the skin, to have a good outcome to the tattoo once it’s healed. Also, the way the machinery is set up and tuned, to make precise lines and shading etc.

Image and caption by Adam Jeffery from The Baltimore Tattoo Museum. Pictured is a Joe Farrar machine built for Johnny Walker who tattooed with “Cap” Coleman of Norfolk, Virginia, and Sailor Jerry Collins in Honolulu, Hawaii. The machine is a Percy Waters model #7 from the 1940’s-1950’s era, that Farrar rebuilt to serve as a shader. Pictured in the right-hand corner is Joe’s tattooing and business card from their DC location.

Q: Can you tell us of one of your favorite collections?

I personally love our collection of Paul Rogers tattoo machines acetate stencils and flash. Most of it came from the collection of Charley and Sandy Parsons who are two of my mentors and were close friends with Paul who tattooed from the late 1920s till the late 1980s. Paul was an innovator and all around crafty artist making his own equipment, mixing his own colors and a designer of tattoos. The total package and to boot a good person as I am told.

Image and caption by Adam Jeffery from The Baltimore Tattoo Museum. Displayed are Paul Rogers machines, acetate stencils made by Paul and a photo of a tattoo he did.

Q: What are some challenges unique to the collections?

The largest challenge is that prior to the 2000s Tattoo memorabilia was just old stuff or junk so a lot of it was thrown away or lost to time as tattooing was nowhere near as common as it is currently. So honestly, there isn’t as much of it to be had as one might think as well the prior you get it thru can be hard to deal with as it has become more popular. Prices have gone up and you are getting it second and third hand now so the provenance of it isn’t easy to establish.

Q: What is your favorite part of knowing you are an accidental archivist?

My favorite part of being an accidental archivist is interacting with other collectors who have been collecting for a long time, their knowledge helps me place dates and times on artists, machines and flash that I’ve had questions about. It can be an awesome community.

There’s an Archivist for That! Interview with Danielle Nowak, Digital Assets Librarian at the Morton Arboretum

Danielle Nowak. Image courtesy of Danielle Nowak.

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Danielle Nowak, the Digital Assets Librarian at the Morton Arboretum in the Sterling Morton Library in Lisle, Illinois.

Danielle Nowak graduated from Purdue University Calumet with a Bachelor’s Degree in History in 2015, followed by a Master’s of Library Science Degree from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 2017.

After graduating with her MLS, Danielle worked as a Reference/Instruction Librarian at Prairie State College and the University of St. Francis before landing her permanent gig at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois.

You can visit www.daniellenowakmls.org to learn more about Danielle’s past and current work and professional experience.

How did you get your gig?

I began working at The Morton Arboretum in late 2017 as the Access Services Librarian. Before earning my MLS I had interned and worked in various library settings and knew that I ultimately wanted to end up in a position where I would be working with archival collections. However, the challenging job market did not allow me to do that right away. As an undergraduate and graduate student I worked full-time as a manager at Panera Bread, while also picking up library and archival internships and jobs on top of that. Between school and working multiple jobs at the same time, I essentially worked 7 days a week for six years. Despite the trials and tribulations I went through in getting to this point, I never took my eyes off my end goal of getting a full-time archives job.

When I saw the opening for the Access Services Librarian role at The Morton Arboretum it was pretty much love at first sight. As someone that loves the outdoors, nature, history, and libraries, I was super excited to see that a position like this even existed. I applied in July-August, had my first and second interviews in September-October and then was hired in December. My original position as the Access Services Librarian had a term limit of two years. Close to the end of those two years, the Digital Assets Librarian position opened up and I applied for it and accepted the position.

Tell us about your organization.

Founded in 1922 by Joy Morton (founder of the Morton Salt Company), The Morton Arboretum is a 1,700 acre tree museum that is located in Lisle, Illinois. On these 1,700 acres are 222,000 live plants, representing nearly 4,300 taxa from around the world. The Arboretum conducts scientific research on tree and health improvement, collects and displays trees for study and enjoyment, offers educational programming for adults and children, and presents nature-related activities year round for people of all ages and interests.

The grounds are also home to a Visitor Center, Children’s Garden, Maze Garden, miles of hiking trails, a Herbarium, Plant Clinic, and the amazing Sterling Morton Library.

The Sterling Morton Library was opened in 1963 in memory of Sterling Morton, Joy Morton’s son. Interestingly, the library building itself was designed by the Chicago architect, Harry Weese, as an addition to The Arboretum’s Administration Building.

Sterling Morton Library Reading Room. Image courtesy of Danielle Nowak.

To add to the library’s uniqueness, the May T. Watts Reading Garden is attached to the library. The Reading Garden was constructed as a permanent monument to May Theilgaard Watts, a renowned American naturalist, author, poet, and educator. The Reading Garden makes for an exceptional place for quiet study or work.

May T. Watts Reading Garden, Image courtesy of Danielle Nowak

Describe your collections.

At the Sterling Morton Library we aim to collect resources that will assist our staff and members in supporting The Arboretum’s mission and work. In addition to our archival collections, we also have circulating, e-book, journal, artwork, nursery catalog, landscape plans, and rare book collections.

My work is primarily focused on our archival collections – both physical and digital.

The Library houses the institutional archives of The Morton Arboretum. These materials include documents and photographs that detail and describe The Arboretum’s development, past, and present; institutional and staff publications; photographs of plants taken on Arboretum grounds; photographs and documents pertaining to ex-situ plant collecting trips; and an assortment of other materials that help document The Arboretum’s existence and impact.

Kim Shearer, The Morton Arboretum’s Tree and Shrub Breeder, preparing to gather pollen from a Magnolia bloom. Image courtesy of The Morton Arboretum

The Library also houses and collects materials related to the Morton Family. With The Arboretum’s centennial approaching in 2022, digitizing the materials from the Collection of Morton Family Materials has become one of our priorities in the library. Right now, myself and a team of dedicated library volunteers are working to digitize and catalog our collection of Morton family correspondence, transcribe handwritten letters from said collection, and ultimately make the collection as accessible as possible.

Our fastest growing collections are our digital photograph collections, the largest being the Arboretum Image Bank, Collection of John Hagstrom Photographs, and the Living Collections Departmental Photographs. The Arboretum Image Bank is a series within The Morton Arboretum Records (our institutional collection) and contains photographs taken primarily by Arboretum staff of events at The Arboretum, work taking place at The Arboretum or off-site, and other Arboretum exhibitions and programming. We have contributors from our marketing, interpretation, and living collections departments transferring images on a regular basis.


Soil samples from around the Arboretum. Photograph by Michael Hudson, Courtesy of The Morton Arboretum

Our other two largest digital photograph collections are related to plants and trees. Our Living Collections Departmental Photographs collection contains photographs of plants and trees that have been taken by an Arboretum staff member and an Arboretum volunteer. In these photographs, the two photographers aimed to capture images of woody plants around the Arboretum and Midwest. In addition to photographing just the entire plant, they also focused on taking pictures of specific parts of the plant or tree.

A mature seed from a Ginkgo biloba. Photographed by Ed Hedorn, Courtesy of The Morton Arboretum

Our other collection of plant and tree photographs is the Collection of John Hagstrom Images. John Hagstrom is a long-time Arboretum volunteer that set out to photograph every type of plant at the Arboretum, each of its part, and in each season. While the project is still in progress, so far, John has donated over 10,000 images that we are actively incorporating into our digital collections.

A close-up view of flowers on a Viburnum farreri (fragrant viburnum). Photographed by John Hagstrom. Courtesy of The Morton Arboretum

What are some challenges unique to your collections?

I would say one of the biggest challenges that is unique to our collections is having a good grasp on plant names and naming conventions. Oftentimes, plants will have multiple common names or their name will have changed over time. Since plant photographs make up a huge part of our digital collections and we have searchers with varying plant knowledge, it is imperative that we are able to incorporate multiple names into our plant name’s keyword and also keep our naming convention consistent. Additionally, prior to being hired at the Arboretum, I did not have a strong background in botany. So, there has been a bit of a learning curve when it comes to plant names and parts, but I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about them and seeing myself become more knowledgeable on the topic. 

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is the people I get to work with and assist. Because our collections encompass so many different topics (local history, botany, institutional records, etc.) I am always getting a variety of questions and tasks that keep me on my toes. I appreciate this because it helps facilitate an environment of learning that really helps me thrive.

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!

THERE’S AN ARCHIVIST FOR THAT! INTERVIEW WITH LAURA LAPLACA, THE DIRECTOR OF ARCHIVES OF THE NATIONAL COMEDY CENTER

Laura LaPlaca, Director of Archives. Photo courtesy of Laura LaPlaca.

Laura LaPlaca, Director of Archives. Photo courtesy of Laura LaPlaca.

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect. COPA member Rachael Woody, owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC, brings you an interview with Laura LaPlaca, the Director of Archives of the National Comedy Center.

Before her tenure as Director of Archives for the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY, Laura earned a PhD in Screen Cultures in the Department of Radio/TV/Film at Northwestern University. Her work focused on the early history of broadcasting in the United States, and particularly the development of the sitcom genre from the late 1920s to early 1960s. She also holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Dept. of Radio/TV/Film, and bachelor’s degrees in Art History and English Literature from Pepperdine University. During her 10+ years as an archivist of popular culture and media, Laura has led or contributed to processing and preservation efforts at institutions including the Library of Congress, USC-Warner Brothers Archives, and Paley Center for Media. She founded the Northwestern University Radio Archive Project [NURAP] and has served on the boards of the Library of Congress Radio Preservation Task Force and Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ Television Studies Scholarly Interest Group. Her co-authored manuscript on the history of American comedy is forthcoming from Smithsonian Press.

RW: How did you get your gig at the National Comedy Center Archives?

I first visited Jamestown, NY – a beautiful historic community on the shore of Lake Chautauqua in Southwestern NY – on a grant-funded archival research trip while completing my doctoral dissertation on the history of the sitcom. Jamestown is the birthplace of the ground-breaking TV pioneer Lucille Ball, whose archives are housed by the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, which tells the story of Ball and Arnaz’s influential Desilu Studios and celebrates their enduring cultural legacies. During my visit, I met Journey Gunderson, the Executive Director of the museum, who told me about her team’s ambitious efforts to execute Lucille Ball’s vision to build the first national-scale, non-profit educational institution devoted to comedy in her hometown. I knew moments after meeting Journey, and hearing about the remarkable energy, optimism, and goodwill that all of Jamestown was pouring into the National Comedy Center project, that I had to be involved. It turned out that the Comedy Center had yet to hire a Director of Archives & Research, and my particular background in the history of entertainment media and popular culture archives was a good match. I joined the team about 18 months before the 37,000-square-foot, $50-million-dollar National Comedy Center opened its doors in August 2018. Since opening, we’ve educated more than 100,000 guests from around the world about the history and art of comedy. We’ve been named one of Time’s “World’s Greatest Places,” voted “Best New Museum” by USA Today, and were designated by the United States Congress as our country’s official cultural institution devoted to preserving and presenting the vital story of comedy. But I am most proud of the fact that we have been so thoroughly embraced by the comedy community itself; knowing that the artists and creators we are celebrating find our work important is really the best metric of our success so far, and the thing that energizes me every day.

Q: Please tell us about the National Comedy Center Archives.

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From the American sitcom Seinfeld, the Seinfeld puffy shirt on exhibit at the National Comedy Center. Photo courtesy of the National Comedy Center.

The National Comedy Center Archives collects materials that illuminate the comedic process, demonstrate the sociopolitical import of comedy history, and elevate comedy as an artform. We are committed, first and foremost, to providing access to collections. We always acquire, process, and preserve artifacts with exhibition and educational goals top of mind. To that end, the archives team works hand-in-hand everyday with staff in Guest Experiences, Education, Programming, and Technology to activate our collections for the public. The Comedy Center is comprised of more than 50 immersive exhibits that marshal cutting-edge technology and novel forms of interactive storytelling to communicate the story of comedy – very often via primary source archival materials. One of my primary roles as

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From the movie Ghostbusters, the Ghostbuster suit on display at the National Comedy Center. Photo courtesy of the National Comedy Center.

Director of Archives is curatorial: Where and how can archival materials illuminate history for our visitors? That sometimes takes the form of traditional artifact displays inside glass cases (the “Puffy Shirt” from Seinfeld, Harold Ramis’ Ghostbusters suit, Charlie Chaplin’s cane, or Joan Rivers’ joke notes). But, more often, involves activating digital surrogates of archival originals as part of interactive exhibits that involve touch screens, video walls, projections, or other technologically enhanced presentations. To share just one example, our visitors can take a seat at a Virtual Writer’s Desk and “page through” annotated script drafts from comedies like The Muppets, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum while the final-draft on-screen versions of the scenes play out beside them. In the past six weeks, due to the COVID-19 closures, we have moved a selection of our exhibit content to a digital platform that brings the museum direct to fans, students, and families around the world. You may enjoy exploring National Comedy Center Anywhere at anywhere.comedycenter.org.

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The Virtual Writer’s Desk on exhibit at the National Comedy Center. Photo courtesy of the National Comedy Center.

Q: Please describe the collections or one of your favorite collections.

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The George Carlin Collection on exhibit at the National Comedy Center. Photo courtesy of the National Comedy Center.

Our collections range across the history of comedy, from I Love Lucy to Saturday Night Live, from vaudeville to Internet humor, and across all comedy genres. I have three “favorite” collections: First, the 27,000-piece George Carlin Collection, which we have digitized and made available to visitors via an interactive interface in our galleries. The collection chronicles Carlin’s five-decade evolution as an artist, via his copious handwritten notes, day planners, audiovisual recordings, wardrobe, and more than 40 boxes of creative ephemera. The interactive exhibit showcases his meticulous process in detail, and allows our visitors an up-close look at the creative mind of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Second, the Rusty Warren Collection, and accompanying exhibit, honors the contributions of an important feminist comedic artist who levied her talents and brilliant wit to become a leading voice in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Rusty Warren’s work was so progressive – and so feared – that she was banned from performing on television. Nevertheless, she toured cabarets and nightclubs for over thirty years and made 11 hugely popular comedy albums – 7 of which “went Gold.” Third, the Carl Reiner Collection – which is currently being processed – includes digitized

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From the American sitcom I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball’s polka dot dress on display at the National Comedy Center. Photo courtesy of the National Comedy Center.

copies of every annotated draft page of the scripts for the seminal sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, which Reiner created and wrote. This series was an important pivot point in the history of American television, and set a high watermark that endures to this day. The chance to peer into Reiner’s process via these scripts is like taking a masterclass in the art of comedy writing. In addition to overseeing the processing and preservation of our rapidly-growing permanent collections, I also work closely with artists, estates, and industry partners to curate rotating exhibits of documents, props, and costumes that represent landmark moments in the history of comedy: Lenny Bruce’s trenchcoat, Harpo Marx’s wig, Lucille Ball’s polka dot dress, a “Dundie” from The Office, Carol Burnett’s charwoman costume, The Smothers Brothers’ guitar and bass, Andy Kaufman’s wrestling belt, Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor costume, the wedding dress from Bridesmaids, Weird Al Yankovic’s accordion, and so many more.

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The Smothers Brothers pose with the Smothers Brothers Collection on exhibit at the National Comedy Center. Photo courtesy of the National Comedy Center.

Q: What are some challenges unique to the collections?

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John Mulaney views whe Rodney Dangerfield Exhibit at the National Comedy Center. Photo courtesy of the National Comedy Center.

The primary challenge that we contend with is the vastness and variability of comedy as a subject area. The Comedy Center celebrates comedy in all its forms – and across all eras. That approach requires safely housing, preserving, and conserving a broad range of multimedia artifacts, most of which were designed for one-time use on stage – not for decades of stable storage and exhibition. Our team routinely handles manuscripts, photographs, scrapbooks, and documents of all sorts…but also cares for 100-year-old fake mustaches, vaudeville broadsides, cartoonist’s palettes, Grammy Awards, a toupee, acetate discs, costume jewelry, a piano, several motor vehicles, a papier-mâché frog costume, paintings, undergarments, nitrate films, a miniature bicycle, a trick cello, a sledgehammer, and all manner of fragile, irregular, and – oftentimes – very funny objects.

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Dan Aykroyd donates his motorcycle to the National Comedy Center. Photo courtesy of the National Comedy Center.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

Part of my responsibility as the National Comedy Center’s Director of Archives is to work directly with artists and their estates to devise the best ways to engage, inspire, and entertain our visitors while educating them about the vital role that comedy has played in shaping our shared cultural heritage. I enjoy every opportunity I have to interact with artists: to discuss their work, to internalize their stories, to strategize together about how to preserve and celebrate their craft for generations to come.

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The Joan Rivers Collection on exhibit at the National Comedy Center. Photo courtesy of the National Comedy Center.

There’s an Archivist for That! Interview with Ilana Short

Courtesy of Ilana Short.

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Ilana Short, the Vault Manager for Invenium.

Ilana Short, MA has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a master’s degree in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University. Ilana is currently the Vault Manager for Inveniem, a technology and archival company in Los Angeles, California. Ilana has previously held positions as the Manager of Visitor Services and Education with Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts and the Photography Collections Manager for the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas.

How did you get your gig?

I honestly sort of fell into it, which is of course not what people want to hear, as I know how hard it is to get a position working in archives. But, it really is the truth in this case!

I had spent most of my career working in museums, and I had done everything from education and visitor services to working with collections. Collections was really my favorite and where I focused my career, and I had been working at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas managing the photography collections and archive. I then became more involved with the Curator of Manuscripts, and worked with her on cataloging and developing taxonomies for the photo collections, in addition to developing and curating exhibits. I discovered I had a knack for cataloging, and really enjoyed the work as well! I had been working closely with the archivist for a sister organization, the Las Vegas News Bureau, when she came across the job posting for Vault Manager at Inveniem on the SAA message board. She forwarded it to me with a note that said “this sounds like you!”

I have a personal passion for music, and many things I enjoyed doing in my free time revolved around music and concerts, and the job posting mentioned working in the music industry. I really went back and forth on applying for a little while, since the job was in Los Angeles, and I live in Las Vegas, but I did apply a couple days later.

From there, things moved fairly quickly, at least for a job in the museum and archives world. I applied in late summer, had a few rounds of interviews, and started in November of 2018. I had expected that my husband, kids, and I would all move to Los Angeles, but it hasn’t actually worked out that way. I am still commuting weekly, but now I am working from home more with the pandemic.

Tell us about your organization.

Inveniem is a small, private technology and archival company and we work primarily with living musicians and the estates of former musicians. Our client list, with rare exceptions, is completely confidential. What we specialize in, though, is helping our clients archive their personal memorabilia and possessions, as well as helping them monetize those assets if they choose to do so. We employ a staff of professional archivists, most of whom have MLIS degrees, and have developed our own schema and taxonomic structures for cataloging our client’s assets. We also choose the best long term storage and preservation options for our client’s assets as well. As Vault Manager, my job is to oversee the archivists, as well as developing strategic methods for cataloging assets and monetization plans, and creating work flow procedures for each of our clients.

Describe your collections.

The collections that we work with vary from client to client, but because our clients are musicians, they tend to contain a lot of the same types of objects. The assets that we work with typically include photographic materials (photos, slides, negatives, and transparencies), tour books, merchandise from tours, stage and video costumes, awards (like gold records and Grammy Awards), instruments, posters, and personal memorabilia. Being a photo archivist by trade, the photographic collections are always my favorites to work with!

One client that we are allowed to talk about is Wiz Khalifa, and most of the objects we worked with in his collection were clothing and shoes. We really excel at receiving a lot of disparate objects and turning them into cohesive collections – we categorize the objects, assign barcodes, photograph or scan each object, create metadata, and ingest the metadata into our database.

What are some challenges unique to your collections?

One of the biggest challenges is our confidentiality. It’s absolutely essential to our business but it does make it more difficult to participate in things that archivists normally would for professional development, like presenting at conferences. It’s also hard on a personal level because you might be a tremendous fan of an artist you are working with and you can’t tell anyone what you are doing! Aside from that, we face the challenges anyone in other archives face, especially how to organize information so that our clients can interact with it in a way that makes sense to them, as they aren’t archivists.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Where do I begin? In a lot of ways I have really found my “dream job.” Yes, I get to meet rock stars from time to time, but honestly my favorite thing is working with objects that I know no one else has ever seen. Some of our clients are artists that I really enjoy listening to, so getting to see lyrics in their handwriting, or photos from their travels are fascinating to me. I also love that the job constantly brings new challenges to solve and that I have to continuously be creative in many ways to bring new initiatives to our clients.

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!

There’s An Archivist for That! Interview with Kat Siddle, Librarian for lululemon athletica

Portrait of Kat Siddle.

Courtesy of Kat Siddle.

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Kat Siddle, the Sample  Librarian for the Historical Garment Archive at lululemon athletica.

As a self-described “clothes librarian”, Kat Siddle manages the historical garment archive at lululemon athletica’s headquarters in Vancouver, BC. During her 12 year career, Kat has worked in public, academic, and special libraries, with a short stint in copywriting.

How did you get your gig?

It’s a long story!

I’m technically a librarian, not an archivist. And I got this job because I left libraries for copywriting.

After I graduated, my first full-time position was at a public law library. I liked my job, but after a few years, I started feeling like it was time to move on. I didn’t quite know what to do next. Library jobs were scarce and public law libraries are pretty unusual institutions. I didn’t have an obvious next step. I went back to the drawing board and started applying for non-library jobs. I got a job as a junior a copywriter at lululemon athletica, the company that invented yoga pants. I didn’t have any experience, but I was interested in the apparel industry and I was a good writer. I didn’t know if I would ever end up in libraries again. I did copywriting and content management at lululemon for 2.5 years – and then a role in the archives opened up.

Now I’m librarian running an archive. And instead of books or documents, my archive is filled with clothes. It’s a hybrid library-archive space, because employees can check items in and out, and they’re able to self-serve if I’m not available.

Tell us about your organization.

lululemon is company that makes yoga and fitness clothing, plus accessories and clothes for everyday. It’s known for having an intense culture. It’s very outgoing, sporty and goal-driven—which was a big change for me!

View o f hoodies in pastel and gray shades hanging on a rack.

Garment racks are absolutely essential. They’re my bookcarts. They’re the best way to organize and transport clothing in a workspace. Courtesy of Kat Siddle.

lululemon is a vertical company, which means that we create everything in-house. We develop our own special fabrics and design our own garments, and sell them in our own stores. This means there’s lots of opportunities for information professionals. Right now, there are three librarians/archivists working here.

Describe your collections.

Right now, my collections all contain clothing and accessories. I have a few other products, like bottles of skincare and cans of lululemon-branded beer that we created for our annual half-marathon.  We keep the lululemon products that come out globally every season, plus products made by our Lab line and our little-sister company, Ivivva. Ivivva made clothing for girls. The Ivivva brand will be closing soon, so right now I’m working on transitioning that collection from a “working collection” that needs to be referenced by merchants and designers to a historical collection. I want to capture the aesthetic character of the brand and really honor all the hard work that went into it.

Some day, I would love to keep designer’s sketches and other artifacts from the design process, because I find that fascinating.

What are some challenges unique to your collections?

One challenge is that our accessions are driven by the company’s productivity. The company has been growing, so the amount of archival garments that I’m keeping is increases every quarter—but my space remains the same. So I’m always on the verge of a space crisis.

Another challenge is defining what makes up a meaningful or useful collection. I don’t always know how or why people are using my collections, which can make planning and weeding a challenge.

View of women's mannequins in storage.

Behind the scenes at a clothing company. Piles of mannequins are pretty common, and I almost don’t find them creepy anymore. Courtesy of Kat Siddle.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love that I have the chance to apply my skills in a design-driven environment. I always wanted to be a special librarian, but many of those positions deal with dry subject matter that doesn’t inspire me the way clothing does. I love working with colours and fabrics. It’s just inherently interesting to me. And I’m always learning — there’s so much I still want to learn from the fields of archives and museum sciences.

9 scrunchies on display, various colors, w/ exhibit tags.

I keep collections of all kinds of clothing and accessories. For some reason, the scrunchie collection is one of my favourites. Courtesy of Kat Siddle.

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!

THERE’S AN ARCHIVIST FOR THAT! INTERVIEW WITH MATHEW BROCK, LIBRARY AND HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS MANAGER, MAZAMA LIBRARY

Mathew Brock, Mazama Library & Historical Collections Manager

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect. COPA member Anna Trammell brings you an interview with Mathew Brock, Library and Historical Collections Manager for the Mazama Library.

AT: How did you get your job?

MB: When the position was posted I was volunteering at the Oregon Historical Society in the research library. The then assistant director called me into her office and said, “You NEED to get this job!” At the time I was just out of library school having graduated in the spring of 2014 from the University of Washington’s iSchool. The application deadline was still a few weeks away, so with the help of my wife, I worked and reworked the application questions and did several mock interviews to practice my answers. I submitted my application and held my breath. A few days later I was called for an interview. The first interview was with a member of the staff and a few longtime library volunteers. I was called back later that day for a follow-up interview with the Executive Director. That interview went very well and the next day they offered me the position. In February of 2015, I was hired, part-time, as the first Mazama Library and Historical Collections Manager. I’ve since moved up to a full-time salaried position. 

Vault room containing archives, photographs, and rare book collections

AT: Tell us about your organization.

MB: Founded on the summit of Mount Hood in 1894, the Mazamas is a non-profit mountaineering organization with a legacy of promoting the Northwest culture of exploration and stewardship of its mountain environments. The Mazamas leads over 700 hikes, and 350 climbs annually. It offers a variety of classes and activities for every skill and fitness level, all of which are open to both members and non-members. 

Mazama patches exhibit

Capturing the history of this mountaineering legacy and providing a variety of contemporary resources for Mazamas members and the public is the aim of the Mazama Library and Historical Collections (LHC). In addition to a circulating library, established in 1915, the LHC contains a collection of climbing artifacts and an archival collection. It serves to make available a wide range of records that chronicle the history of the Mazamas and the organization’s place in Pacific Northwest outdoor recreation. Additionally, the LHC serves to document and preserve the actions and activities of the Mazamas committees, and past and current members. 

Mazama Annuals

AT: Describe your collections.

The Mazama Library, one-third of the Mazama Library and Historical Collections is one of the few standalone mountaineering libraries operating in the United States today. Early photographs of the Mazama Clubrooms, as they were known then, reveal a small glass-fronted bookcase that showcased the first books in the Mazama Library. Over the next 105 years, the library acquired guidebooks, technical how-to titles, and rare books on mountaineering. Today, the library is significantly more extensive and strives to meet the varied needs of members, researchers, and the interested public. 

Mountaineering boots

Currently, the circulating collection contains over 7,500 volumes on mountaineering, climbing, bouldering, hiking, canyoneering, trekking, and other outdoor activities. Also, the library’s reference collection maintains full runs of all the major alpine journals and periodicals including the (British) Alpine Journal, the American Alpine Journal, Rock and Ice, Outside, and Backpacker, to name just a few. The library’s extensive biography section holds works by many prominent mountaineers including Sir Edmond Hillary, Lynn Hill, and Reinhold Messner. Rounding out the circulating collection is a small DVD library of mountaineering and climbing films, and a selection of oversized works highlighting climbs, climbers, and mountains from around the world. The collection development policy strives to add books that respond to three questions: How to do it? (technical guides), Where to do it? (guidebooks), and Who did it? (histories, biographies, and expedition accounts). To a lesser extent, the library strives to collect fiction and poetry works related to mountaineering and climbing. The Mazama Library’s non-circulating Special Collection contains rare mountaineering titles from around the world. Several notable books in the collection include a unique, turn-of-the-century copy of Scenes from the Snowfield by Edmund T. Coleman, a first edition of Search for the Apex of America by Anna Smith Peck, and To the Top of the Continent by Dr. Frederick Cook. 

Scrapbook #7, William G. Steel Scrapbook Collections, showing articles from 1894 reporting on the founding of the Mazamas atop Mt Hood.

The archives contain not only Mazamas institutional records, but also preserved manuscripts, photographs, and other documents related to the Pacific Northwest’s history of mountaineering and climbing. A few of the more historically-important photograph collections include those of Mazamas founder William Gladstone Steel, early member Rodney L. Glisan, and the photographer Edward Curtis. William Steel, in addition to founding the Mazamas, was also the driving force behind the creation of Crater Lake National Park. His twenty-volume scrapbook collection, compiled from the late 1880s through the 1920s, details early mountaineering history of the Pacific Northwest, as well as his role in establishing first the Oregon Alpine Club and, after its demise, the Mazamas.  

Small objects collection

The Glisan Photographs Collection spans the 1910s through the late 1930s and documents a wide range of outdoor activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking, in addition to alpine mountaineering. Edward Curtis, known for his photographic and ethnographic work among American Indians, was also an early mountaineer and Mazamas member. The Mazamas own nearly fifty original Curtis prints that illustrate the Mazamas annual outings to Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens in 1897 and 1898 respectively. In addition to capturing two early Mazama outings and climbs, the St. Helens collection contains what several specialists consider one of Curtis’ earliest photographs of Native Americans. Rounding out the important photograph collections is the C.E. Rusk Lantern Slide collection. Comprised of over four dozen slides, the collection recounts Rusk’s trip to Alaska and Mount McKinley to verify the first ascent claim of Dr. Fredrik Cook in 1912. 

Wood handled ice axes

The two most used collections in the Mazama archives are the summit register and glacier research collections. For almost eighty years, the Mazamas managed the registers on the summits of all the principal peaks in the Northwest. The logs, many in custom made aluminum boxes designed and manufactured by the Mazamas, record the names of climbers and the date they reached the summit. Also, the registers encompass a wealth of observational data on the climate, geology, and glaciology of the mountains on which they resided. Beginning in 1895, the Mazamas undertook scientific research and observations of glaciers around the Northwest. The Mazamas were early pioneers of using aircraft to document glaciers and their movement. Covering roughly thirty years, this collection offers climate researchers a snapshot in time of the glaciers around the northwest.

Alpenstocks

Begun in the early 1970s, the Mazama realia collection contains historic mountaineering gear from around the Northwest and the world. The collection was started by a longtime Mazama volunteer who noticed that material objects of historical value were being discarded and lost and thus took it upon herself to collect and save them. Over the last four decades, the collection has grown significantly, having amassed more than 8,000 objects. 

Since the organization’s formation, Mazama members have made hundreds of first ascents on peaks and rock formations regionally and around the world. The realia collections include objects from those first ascents, including early hand-forged pitons, Army surplus carabiners, and the first set of crampons made in Oregon. The collection features not only items used on climbs but also unused gear in pristine condition, such as a Goldline climbing rope and a set of climbing shoes from the 1970s. With a primary focus on Mazama history, the collection contains the 125-year-old alpenstock used by founding member Frank Branch Riley on the Mazamas inaugural climb in 1894 and again during the 100th-anniversary climb in 1994. The collection also holds an ice ax once owned by Argentinian dictator Juan Peron, later given as a gift to Mazama member William Hackett. Objects from the collection are frequently on display at the Mazama Mountaineering Center and loaned out to other institutions for exhibits and shows.

Mountaineering clothing

AT: What are some challenges unique to your collections?

MB: Awareness and accessibility are the two main challenges to our collections. When I was hired back in 2015 I think it was safe to say not many of our members knew about the library and historical collections, to say nothing of the public at large. Through a lot of outreach and awareness building that is slowly changing. More and more researchers, authors, and climbers are finding the collections and making use of the. 

Climbing ropes

Access is another ongoing struggle. Putting the library catalog online in 2017 improved awareness and access to the library’s circulating and non-circulating collections. Access to the archives and realia collections is limited by missing or incomplete catalog records with spotty metadata. The largest request is for easy access to our extensive photograph collection, however, less than 10% of the collection has digital access copies. 

Mazama Library

AT: What is your favorite part of your job?

MB: Every day I am amazed at the scope and depth of the collections.  While not a high alpine mountaineer myself, I enjoy hiking and rock climbing. I am astounded by the deep roots that Mazamas have in the history of Portland and the Pacific Northwest. From William Steel’s advocacy for Crater Lake National Park to Henry Pittock’s zeal for climbing, the Mazamas profound influence on our regional history is tangible. Each time I wander the stacks helping patrons, I encounter wonderfully obscure titles, many out of print or unique to this collection. I enjoy the opportunities I have to work with some of our earliest photograph collections. The images of women climbing in petticoats and men in suit jackets amaze me in their formality and inspire me to delve deeper to understand their motivations. Mostly, however, I am driven to come to work every day to help tell the story of this fantastic organization, its history, and its inspiring members. 

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!

There’s An Archivist for That! Interview with Susan Malsbury, the Director of the Estée Lauder Companies Archives

 

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Photograph courtesy of Susan Malsbury

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  COPA member Rachael Woody, owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC, brings you an interview with Susan Malsbury, the Director of the Estée Lauder Companies Archives.

 

Susan Malsbury graduated from Earlham College with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and continued her graduate work at Pratt University, obtaining a Master’s in Library and Information Science and Archives with an Advanced Certificate in Archives in 2009.

Susan’s first archival work was volunteering at the Maine Historical Society in Portland, Maine, where she cataloged glass plate negatives from the Portland Press Herald and mariner maps. In 2007, Susan interned at the Guggenheim Museum and in the Manuscripts and Archives Division at the New York Public Library. Upon the completion of her internships, Susan was offered a project position at NYPL to be assistant archivist on a project to process the 1939/1940 New York World’s Fair records. Susan remained at NYPL for 12 years, becoming a Manuscripts Specialist in 2010, and the Library’s Digital Archivist in 2014. While at NYPL, Susan worked on complex audiovisual collections, such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis records, and a wide variety of hybrid collections, from publishing house records to artist papers. In 2018, Susan began working at the Estee Lauder Companies Archives as the first ever Manager of Digital Collections and became the Director in 2019.

Susan has lectured extensively on digital archives and is currently the Chair of the Society of American Archivists Electronic Records section.

RW: How did you get your gig at the Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) Archives?

I began working at the ELC Archives in 2018. I had not been actively looking for a new job, but a friend sent the job listing to me and I was intrigued. It was a Manager of Digital Collections position and the role was to build a digital archives program, support the development of a collection management system, and oversee all digitization. I had been at the New York Public Library for twelve years, most recently as Digital Archivist, where I helped build the digital archives program from a project-based approach to a programmatic model. The idea of building a program from the ground up was intriguing and I also thought it would be good to get experience at another institution, as I had spent my entire professional career at NYPL. After a year at ELC, the Director of the Archives left and, after a brief acting period, I assumed the role. It was an unexpected career move but has been an incredible experience to lead a busy corporate archive through what has been a very transformative time!

RW: Please tell us about the Estée Lauder Companies.

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Ronald Lauder, Estée Lauder, and Leonard Lauder in 1972 at the GM Building, the Company’s global headquarters since 1969. Photograph courtesy of the Estée Lauder Companies Corporate Archives.

The Estée Lauder Companies is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of prestige cosmetics. The Company was founded in 1946 by Estée Lauder and Joseph Lauder. Estée handled all product development and marketing, while Joseph oversaw finance and operations. The Estée Lauder brand launched with four main products that she sold at beauty salons around New York. The brand grew rapidly and both the Lauders’ sons eventually joined the Company, Leonard Lauder in 1958 and Ronald Lauder in 1964. The family is still very involved with the Company today, including now fourth generation family members.

 

The Company began creating additional brands in-house on the premise that it was better to make its own competition through separate brands that had distinct brand positioning. Aramis, a men’s fragrance and treatment brand, was launched in 1963. Clinique, the first dermatologist-created, allergy-tested and fragrance-free brand, came soon after in 1968. In 1979, Prescriptives launched as a color authority and was one of the first brands to offer custom blended foundation to match a wide variety of skin tones. The last in-house brand was Origins, founded in 1990 as the first prestige wellness brand that fused natural ingredients with science. After Origins, the Company shifted to fragrance licensing and acquiring already established companies; the first fragrance licensee was Tommy Hilfiger in 1993 and the first brand acquired was MAC Cosmetics in 1994. The Company currently owns 29 brands, including Aveda, Jo Malone London, Bobbi Brown, and Tom Ford Beauty, and is truly a global company with products sold in 150 countries and 48,000 employees worldwide.

Additionally, the Company has had a longtime focus on philanthropy through its Citizenship and Sustainability initiatives. The Breast Cancer Campaign was founded by Evelyn Lauder in 1992 to increase awareness and fund global research, education, and medical services. A little-known fact is that Evelyn Lauder co-created the iconic pink ribbon which has been adopted by breast cancer initiatives worldwide! The MAC AIDS fund was established in 1994 and has raised over $500 million dollars for AIDS organizations through the sale of the Viva Glam lipsticks.

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A portion of the Archives’ heritage exhibit. Courtesy of the Estée Lauder Companies Corporate Archives.

The Archives was founded in 1991 by Leonard Lauder with the mission to collect, preserve, and make available the rich heritage of the Company and its diverse portfolio of brands. The goal of the Archives is to be the center of research and inspiration for the Company, to drive creativity and innovation, and to foster an appreciation and understanding of the Company’s heritage and development. While the Archives started off as a packaging library from the four core brands, it has expanded to include products from all brands as well as any public facing material or material that informs the consumer experience. We also hold select corporate records and the personal papers of Estée and Joseph Lauder.

The Archives has grown significantly from its initial home – like many archives, a closet in the basement of the corporate headquarters – to a full-floor facility in midtown Manhattan. We also recently opened a second archival processing hub in Long Island City. Our main office in Manhattan contains storage for a quarter of our collection, workspace for product processing, a heritage exhibit, and an on-site digitization lab. The heritage exhibit highlights the founding of the company and four core brands by the Lauders, and showcases key products and marketing innovations. Archivists give heritage tours regularly to new employees or by special request, providing over 100 tours a year.

RW: Please describe the collections.

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Estée Lauder Crème Base Face Powder, circa 1960. Examples of product photography. Courtesy of the Estée Lauder Companies Corporate Archives.

Each brand has its own collection, and there are three additional collections for corporate records, the Lauder Family, and the Breast Cancer Company. The collections are broken into two main categories: packaged goods (products and packaging) and archival material (everything else). Currently, the Archives contain 75,000 products, 8,000 linear feet of archival material, 20,000 audiovisual items, and over 60 terabytes of born-digital files.

Products and packaging consist of fragrances, color cosmetics, skincare, home goods like room sprays and candles, and even ingestibles (Aveda’s Comforting Tea and Origins’ Peace of Mind gumballs). Our earliest products are from the 1950s and our latest products are ones that have not yet hit the markets. As the Archives receives two copies of each new product from every brand, we’re expanding by two to five boxes of products each week, depending on the season. We currently have an in-house digitization lab where products are photographed according to museum standards; a color chart is used to ensure 100% color accuracy of packaging and makeup shade.

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Clinique Supplementary Lashes, 1971. Examples of product photography. Courtesy of the Estée Lauder Companies Corporate Archives.

The archival material consists of creative material, collateral, advertisements, education and marketing material, and files related to the Company’s many philanthropic endeavors, much of this increasingly arriving in born-digital form. Additionally, the Archives contains a good deal of special formats like garments, awards, and counter displays. One of my favorite recent acquisitions is the corset that RuPaul wore in the iconic Viva Glam ad! The vast audiovisual assets consist of commercials, tutorials, fashion shows, and media appearances.  We have historically received transfers of material when an office moves or is redesigned or an employee retires. In the future, we plan to develop regular transfer schedules so that we are assured we are getting all material identified as having archival value.

The Archives also runs an Oral History Program, overseen by Marion Jaye, the Company’s first archivist. Marion has conducted 48 interviews with longtime employees, collecting valuable institutional knowledge and stories that truly bring the Company’s heritage to life.

RW: What were some challenges unique to the collections?

One of the biggest challenges is the sheer variety of material types which require separate processes for accessioning, description, conservation, digitization, and access. Two factors that have helped manage these complex collectives are the development of a new collection management system and moving towards a staffing model that encourages expertise by material type.

The Archives uses customized versions of Collective Access for our CMS and our front-end archival portal, allowing users to access our catalog and select digital assets through a beautiful internal website. It was a true team effort to develop cataloging schemas that worked for all the material types in our collection while at the same time ensuring that our controlled vocabulary would be understandable to our user base. The former Director, Adrianna Slaughter, wrote a wonderfully thorough article about this process that everyone should go read! Having a customized system allows us to catalog fields specific to products and packaging, audiovisual, physical archival items, and born-digital files in separate modules that work synergistically in the same system. Collection management fields allow us to track an object’s provenance, and – for physical material – the condition, collection use, and availability and quality of digital derivatives.

We also have a large amount of legacy data in spreadsheets and files from past digitization projects on hard drives. Over the last year and a half, I have been vetting the quality of the metadata and standardizing legacy metadata so that it can be imported into the CMS. The audiovisual spreadsheets were an excellent candidate for this treatment; following my audit and remediation, we now have over 6,500 catalog records that can now be reconciled with a physical audiovisual object and/or a digital derivative, and then pushed to our front-end website for viewing by our users.

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Audiovisual catalog record with media player on the front-end website. Courtesy of the Estée Lauder Companies Corporate Archives.

Another challenge is that, as a corporate archive, we can never close a collection for research. Processing projects require an additional level of strategic planning to ensure that material remains accessible to our users. Sometimes this can create unexpected opportunities to advocate for the Archives. Archivist Laura Donovan recently finished processing the MAC Cosmetics collection and has hosted research appointments at our Long Island City processing hub. These users have loved seeing a processing project in action, and a visit really drove home the scope of our archival work. It is one thing to describe the size of a collection, and quite another to walk into a room where all record cartons are on full display, neatly labeled and arranged on shelves.

RW: What is your favorite part of the job?

I have a few favorites, but the biggest is that I work for a Company that truly values its heritage and thus the Archives. You can see this firsthand in this fun video when the Estée Lauder brand had their spokesmodel, Karlie Kloss, intern at the Archives for a day. There’s often a challenging tendency in archives to have to constantly justify your existence; but at ELC, we are given the resources we need to focus on archival processing, provide reference services, host tours, and support special initiatives. These special initiatives include supporting media opportunities, creating educational programming for employees, and co-curating pop-up and permanent exhibits. No two days are ever the same and that makes the work tremendously exciting. It’s also exciting to see brands use the Archives for product development. Archivist Chelsea Payne, who oversees most reference requests, has seen an increase in brands requesting to see examples of refillable cosmetics as the Company seeks to make more sustainable packaging.

Personally, building out the front-end archival website has been an incredible project to work on and one of my proudest professional accomplishments thus far. The site will launch to ELC employees in June after a two-year development project that began last fall. I have learned a tremendous amount, from application development to designing an archives system for users who may be new to archival research. We decided to forgo the traditional bio/history note and instead created a chronology feature where chronology events were categorized by the following fields: Business, Events, People, Products, Regions, Events, and Philanthropy. Users will be able to select multiple categories and export those results to a PDF or an Excel file which provides more value to our users than a narrative history. I was also able to harness what I learned at NYPL to build out functionality to provide access to born-digital material directly through our site, including automatically capturing original files names as a metadata field.

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An example of a collection’s page. Courtesy of the Estée Lauder Companies Corporate Archives.

This past winter, I ran two user testing phases and have been meeting with stakeholders across the company to demo the site and highlight points of collaboration. Unexpectedly, these meetings have provided wonderful opportunities to build visibility and highlight the Archives work. I previously mentioned that the Archives is in a transformative time. When our site goes live, it will provide all our employees worldwide with access to the Archives, previously only available to New York City-based employees. It is an exciting time to make a truly global archive for a global company.

There’s An Archivist for That! Interview with Rebecca Cline, the Director of the Walt Disney Archives

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Photograph of Rebecca Cline. Courtesy of Walt Disney Archives Photo Library.

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Rebecca Cline, the Director of the Walt Disney Archives.

Becky Cline joined The Walt Disney Company in 1989, and became a member of the staff of the Walt Disney Archives in 1993.  Today, as Director of the Archives, Becky is charged with collecting and preserving all aspects of Disney history and making the material available to researchers from all areas of the Walt Disney Company — as well as to historians, writers, documentarians, and fans around the world. Her many responsibilities include maintaining and conserving the Archives’ collections of historical documents, artwork, character merchandise, costumes, props and memorabilia.   In the years since the Archives was established at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, it has grown from a one-person department to its current staff of twelve, and has come to be recognized as a model among corporate archives in the country.

In her position with the Archives, Becky has also enjoyed participating in the research and development of many new and exciting programs and fan-based initiatives for the Walt Disney Company including the development and operations team for D23: The Official Disney Fan Club.

Born in Glendale, California, and raised in Los Angeles, Becky attended Glendale College and California State University Los Angeles, majoring in Theater Arts.  After college, she worked for two years in the Rare Books Department of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, where she received her first taste of library/archives work.

As an author, Becky has co-authored the books Disney Insider Yearbook, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember ­(Sept., 2019), The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains and Spaces Between (Aug., 2019) and the upcoming Holiday Magic at Disney Parks (Summer 2020), and has written numerous articles on Disney history for magazines such as Disney’s twenty-three, Disney Magazine, The Disney Channel Magazine, Persistence of Vision, and The E-Ticket, as well as many other Disney internal publications and websites. She is also a frequent speaker on behalf of The Walt Disney Company, giving talks and presenting seminars on Disney history.

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Cover: The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark and Becky Cline, Disney Editions 2019. Walt Disney Archives Photo Library.

How did you get your gig?

I started out in the Walt Disney Archives as a (Semi-Senior) Secretary.  After college I planned to work in live technical theater which was my major, but couldn’t find steady work, so I took a job as a Library Assistant in the Rare Books Department at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.  I had always loved libraries and reading, but after two years there I discovered a passion for rare books and materials and had a great desire to work in that field instead.  In 1989, I heard from a friend that they were hiring a file clerk at the Walt Disney Archives and so I jumped at it.  They had already filled the role, so I took a job at Disney Home Video for four years and then finally got a secretarial job in the Archives in 1993.  Then, I learned everything I could about Disney and began writing and researching on my own.  Eventually I was made an Assistant Archivist, and then moved on to build out our Collections department as the Manager of Collections, focusing on working with the department’s dimensional assets.  When our Chief Archivist and Founder, Dave Smith, retired in 2010,  I was made Director­ – a role I’ve held ever since.  I just celebrated my 30th anniversary with Disney and 26th with the Archives.  Oddly enough – I have no institutional library training, but my theatrical background has been of inestimable value in an entertainment archive setting – working with props, costumes, sets, art, curating exhibitions, budgets, and scheduling, assisting historical researchers and being a spokesperson, and acting as a presenter and on-camera interview subject – I wear lots of hats!

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Becky Cline (Director, Walt Disney Archives) speaking at D23’s Destination D event – 2014, Walt Disney World, Orlando FL. Courtesy of Walt Disney Archives Photo Library.

Tell us about your organization.

We were founded in 1970 as the first studio archives in the film/entertainment industry – and we are the largest of our kind.  We now have a staff of 30 and work as teams in multiple areas – Research, Collections, Exhibitions, Operations, and a Photo Library and Digital Lab.  The staff is comprised of employees from various backgrounds with various experience – some have traditional library and archival training, museum training, academic and film studies training, some even have business management training.  They are all fantastic historians as well and are very passionate about The Walt Disney Company and its history.

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Describe your collections.

The collections of the Walt Disney Archives cover all aspects of The Walt Disney Company.  We keep all historical documentation from Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney as co-founders of the Company, to motion pictures, television, theme parks, consumer products, publicity, publications, media collections (physical and digital), and corporate history.  As the Corporate archive of the entire Disney enterprise, we cover the history of all areas and brands under the Disney umbrella – including ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and now 21st Century Fox.  Last year the Fox Archives merged with our department, and we are now one.  Our collections are extensive and rather amazing in scope – from almost the beginning of Hollywood history, to today.

Research Collections

A significant portion of our research collection centers on Walt Disney, the man.  Books, articles, speeches, interviews and more than 8,500 photographs just of Walt, himself.  We also chronicle the history and genealogy of the Disney family. There is also a complete set of Company annual reports from 1940 to the present along with Company phone directories, employee periodicals, stockholder materials, and corporate officer materials.

Although the Company’s film collection is housed elsewhere, the Archives collects many films on various formats for reference, including all home entertainment releases, television programs, interviews, special events, and employee training films.  We have scripts for Disney live-action films and television programs along with dialogue cutting continuities for animated films, costume breakdown and continuity books, shooting call sheets and other production information.  Feature animation art is held in a special library that is part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios, but the Archives contains the live-action film, television, publicity and commercial art of the Company.  We also keep documentation about the animated films, including shooting drafts, original story concepts, and transcriptions of story meetings – which are quite enlightening.  Walt Disney first arranged a clipping service in 1924 and ever since the Company has been the subject of countless magazine and newspaper articles.  These are generally arranged by year and subject.

Press releases, press books and movie posters help tell the story of the studios and filmed product the Company has released over the years, too.  We also maintain biographical material – including audio interviews and oral histories with many key Disney Cast Members, Employees, and Imagineers through the decades.  Typed transcripts of significant interviews and speeches are available in both text and digital formats, for reference.  Disney publications have been published in the U.S. since 1930 and we have a complete collection of more than 10,000 titles catalogued.  There are also thousands of international Disney books, published in more than 40 languages.  The Archives also maintains a complete file of domestic comics strips, books and magazines, along with most international titles, dating back to 1932.  We also have preserved a practically complete collection of Disney recorded music – CDs, phonograph records and cassettes as well as digital files.  We also have printed sheet music, production cue sheets, and song folios to round out our musical documentation.

The Archives also houses a vast collection that traces the history of all twelve Disney Parks, from Disneyland in Anaheim to Shanghai Disneyland in China.  The research collections for those parks and resorts include correspondence, films, ticket media, employee publications, menus, Guest collateral and ephemera, and special event project files.

Dimensional Collections

Since the late 1920s, tens of thousands of merchandise items have featured the likeness of Mickey Mouse, and millions of items have featured our film, television and park properties.  While we have never attempted to collect every item ever produced, we do maintain an excellent sample collection, catalogues, correspondence files, licensee materials and photographs that tell the story of our merchandise endeavors since the 20s.

Dimensional assets from our films, television and streaming properties, as well as theme park attractions, are one of our most interesting collections.  Some of our thousands of props and costumes include the ornate prop storybooks that open Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Annette Funicello’s Mickey Mouse Club sweater and mouse ear hat, the 11-foot long Nautilus shooting model from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Davy Crockett’s ‘coonskin cap’, Mary Poppins’ carpet bag and the 20 foot -long “miniature” model of the Black Pearl from the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  Our dimensional collections also include awards, animation models, live-action film models and maquettes, artwork, blueprints and drawings, park attraction vehicles, set pieces and much more – it’s a true treasure trove!

Our exhibition program was conceived with the intention of sharing these fabulous pieces of dimensional Company history with the world.  To that end, we have been creating and presenting exhibitions for Disney fan events across the U.S. for the last decade, and even expanded to Japan and Hong Kong in recent years. This year we are launching a new traveling exhibition program that will let us share some of our favorite assets and stories with new audiences around the globe.

Photography Collections

With the addition of the incredible photo library collection of the Fox Studios in 2019, our Photo Library collection of physical and digital media now numbers over 20 million items.  The various types of negatives and color transparencies preserved in these collections cover all aspects of Disney history, from its beginnings to the present day.  We have built and are constantly adding to a new online digital asset management system which is available to Disney employees (and outside researchers with approval from the Disney Legal Department.) This is a continually growing digitization program that uses state-of-the-art equipment and processes to capture all parts of our collection – some even in 3-D!  It is one of our major initiatives and an accomplishment we are very proud of.

What are some challenges unique to your collections?

As with any Archive, our main challenges are always space and staffing!  Even with what seems to be a large staff, when you look at the magnitude and various types of materials in our collections and the scale of our outreach programs – exhibitions, fan events, publications, historical lectures, training, internal orientations – it doesn’t seem like nearly enough staff.   We also have to create and maintain proper storage facilities for everything from paper documents, original art, and fragile negatives to ride vehicles, automobiles, sailing ships, Audio-Animatronics® dinosaurs, and even Cinderella’s ornate coach!  Our other main challenge is one that just about every other archival collection faces today, too, and that is the collecting and processing digital history.  What used to come through the doors as paper is now digital and that requires a whole new set of skills to find, process, store and share.  In our case, it is massive amounts of digital imagery and audio material.  We are working through these issues with our new digitization programs and are seeking to implement a new and upcoming internal collections management system to not only help keep track of catalogued materials, but also to help with our knowledge management – with half a century of institutional knowledge at our fingertips, we want to make sure we’re doing all we can capture why and how we work the way we do here at Disney, for future generations, and archivists!

What is your favorite part of your job?

I must say I have a fantastic job that I love dearly – I get to work with wonderful, iconic historical assets, but my favorite part has to be working alongside the amazingly talented people here at Disney.  I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to meet and share our history with the best and brightest filmmakers, artists, actors, musicians, animators, authors and creatives in the entertainment industry.  I also get to share what I love so much with the millions of Disney fans out there in some pretty great ways – through our exhibits, events produced by our official fan club, D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, historical presentations at theaters, parks and cruise ships, and even on film and television.

Upcoming celebrations

We open our new traveling exhibit, “Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic,” at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, CA on March 7, 2020.   With lots more to follow, be sure to keep up with us on social media – we have some exciting plans in the works!

 

There’s An Archivist for That! Interview with Krü Maekdo, founder of the Black Lesbian Archives

Krü Maekdo wearing t-shirt that says "Black Lesbian Archives Grassroots Tour 20[??]"

Photo of Krü Maekdo (courtesy of Krü Maekdo).

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Krü Maekdo, the founder of the Black Lesbian Archives.

Krü Maekdo has been an innovator in community organizing, gracing stages around the world sharing, her charm, wit, and presence, while contributing to the exciting LGBTQ+ renaissance in many of our communities. CEO of Maekdo Productions, a multi-media and event planning company for women in the LGBTQ+ community as well as the Founder of Queer Black Creatives and Black Lesbian Archives. She works to diplomatically build and connect the world in creative ways. A Creative Director specializing in, Multi-Media, Event Planning, Kosmic Rootwork and Astrology.

For info, visit: krumaekdo.wixsite.com/info/about

How did you get your gig?

I created the Black Lesbian Archives June 2017 after realizing that the stories of our lives were not being documented online, in our local libraries, institutions, collection departments, etc. I felt it would be a great way not only to bring awareness, but to build our communities through experimental storytelling. As well as educating ourselves through our own generational linkages and experiences.

Tell us about your organization.

The Black Lesbian Archives idea started after spending some time in Williamsburg, VA then moving to Chicago, IL. The first exhibit was created after attending an exhibit about Lesbian herstory in Chicago of the 60s, 70s & 80s. I noticed there was a lack of Black Lesbians in the exhibit and everything truly sparked from there. The first exhibit was held at Affinity Community Services in June of 2018 through July and the rest is herstory!

Table top sign that says "Black Lesbian Archives. These archives are on loan. Please feel free to look through, but leave them here! Thank you! With Affinity and logo on the right.

(photo by Law91Media)

Describe your collections.

The Black Lesbian Archives collections I would describe them as having a whole lot of personality! So raw, so honest. They come in all different shapes and sizes. Mostly physical but eventually transferring into digital so we can make them available globally in a way that’s more accessible to all.

What are some challenges unique to your collections?

One of the challenges is figuring out an innovative way to preserve archives without having the largest set of funds/backing and to keep it going. The more I learn about archival preservation, the more I understand there’s so much you wouldn’t expect that goes into the backend of archival preservation. We gonna make it work for us though.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of this project is the collaborative effort. Hearing and learning the ways in which we archive. Also the storytelling aspect of archiving which is my favorite! We have created a whole community about how we are growing and preserving the stories of the past, present and future interweaves our destines.

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With the new year comes a new opportunity to participate in the Black Lesbian Archives Grassroots 2020 tour. The Black Lesbian Archives Grassroots 2020 was created to bring awareness, educate, preserve and bridge generational gaps within our communities so in turn, we can understand ourselves and the communities beyond us.

Krü Maekdo sitting on steps with tee that says "Black Lesbian Archives Grassroots 2020 Tour"

Photo o Krü Maekdo. Promo for the Black Lesbian Archives Grassroots 2020 Tour (courtesy of Krü Maekdo).

For more information check out blacklesbianarchives.wixsite.com/info/grassroots-tour and email: blacklesbianarchives@gmail.com or call 469-430-8568. Leave a voicemail and we’ll get back.

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!