The Days of Our Lives: FSU Archives Edition

What do archivists do all day, anyway?  Look at old photos?  Dust yearbooks? Take papers from one file folder and put them in another?

Those are all true to some extent, but university archivists play more roles in their community than one might think.  Take a look at some of the extraordinary events during an average week in FSU Special Collections and Archives:

Thursday, October 15:

Students from the ART5928 workshop “Creating Experiences” visit the Claude Pepper Museum.  Their project this semester involves creating a public event that could be held in in a museum space.  The students have designed a Claude Pepper Pajama Party event and social media campaign, and today they’re walking through their ideas with Pepper Library Manager Rob Rubero.

Rob Rubero with ART5928 Students. (c) Justyn D. Thomas Photography. Used with permission.
Rob Rubero with ART5928 students in the Claude Pepper Museum. (c) 2015 Justyn D. Thomas Photography. Used with permission.

FSU Special Collections has always considered local history one of its collecting strengths. In an effort to deepen community connections and learn more about the Tallahassee music industry, Rory Grennan and Katie McCormick attend a public appearance by influential songwriter and producer George Clinton.  Aside from smiles and photo opportunities, our archivists enjoy many conversations with Clinton’s family and associates about his work and his legacy.

Rory Grennan and Katie McCormick enjoy photo opportunities with songwriter and producer George Clinton.
Rory Grennan and Katie McCormick enjoy photo opportunities with songwriter and producer George Clinton.

Friday, October 16:

Today, the Special Collections Research Center reading room has the privilege of hosting the members of the Florida State University History Club.  A dozen history undergraduates attend an informational presentation by Manuscript Archivist Rory Grennan and Rare Books Librarian Kat Hoarn.  Presentations and instructional sessions for students, faculty, and the public are a core part of the Special Collections mission, and occur frequently at the beginning of the school year.  History Club members are excited to see 4000 years of human history laid out in documents from our collections including cuneiform tablets, a page from a Bible printed by Gutenberg, and artist books from the 21st century.

Rory Grennan looks on as Kat Hoarn closely examines a rare book with the FSU History Club.
Rory Grennan looks on as Kat Hoarn closely examines an illustration by Theodore de Bry with members of the FSU History Club.

Monday, October 19:

Monday morning, archivists Sandra Varry and Krystal Thomas visit the University Registrar’s office to consult on the preservation of student transcripts on microfilm.  The filmed student records see heavy use, and unfortunately enough of the film has been worn down that some records are losing information.  The group discusses modern strategies such as digitization to preserve these essential historical records that document a century of higher education.

Later, Sandra Varry and division staff prepare for a new exhibit opening today in the Special Collections Exhibit Room on the first floor of Strozier Library.  “Mittan: A Retrospective” celebrates the work of photographer Barry Mittan, and documents student life at FSU in the 1960s and 1970s.  The exhibit was curated by graduate assistant Britt Boler and runs through January 2016.

Exhibit title card at gallery entrance; Sandra Varry adjusts a framed print in the exhibit room.
Exhibit title card at gallery entrance; Sandra Varry adjusts a framed print in the exhibit room.

In the afternoon, Krystal Thomas carefully reviews and uploads recently-digitized cookbooks and herbals to the FSU Digital Library.  The Digital Library features digitized versions of the highlights of our collections, as chosen by Special Collections staff and our users, and new content is added regularly by archives staff.

Tuesday, October 20:

Things They Don’t Teach You In Grad School #47:  Water and vinegar makes an effective, non-abrasive cleaner for a headstone.

Former FSU faculty member Paul Dirac was a giant in the fields of mathematics and quantum mechanics, and his papers are a frequently-consulted resource by researchers at FSU Libraries.  Since no members of the Dirac family remain in Tallahassee, it has become the unofficial duty of our library and archives staff to visit Dirac’s grave once a year and see that it is kept clean.  October 20th is the anniversary of Dirac’s death, and seems an appropriate time to visit the site.  Archivists Katie McCormick, Rory Grennan, and Krystal Thomas, accompanied by library Director of Development Susan Contente and a handful of Physics Department students, scrub the headstone and plant fresh flowers this afternoon.

Top: Krystal Thomas, Katie McCormick, and Susan Contente remove grime from the Dirac headstone. Below: A clean headstone with fresh flowers planted on either side.
Before: Krystal Thomas, Katie McCormick, and Susan Contente remove grime from the headstone of Paul and Margit Dirac.
After: A clean headstone with fresh flowers planted on either side.

Wednesday, October 21:

Early this morning, archives staff notice an uncharacteristic rise in temperature in the stacks.  After confirming initial impressions with a few temperature readings, contact is quickly made with library facilities staff to take steps to correct an issue with the building’s HVAC systems.  Constant environmental monitoring is an important part of preserving our collections, as paper, film, and other substrates are vulnerable to fluctuations in temperature and humidity.  There’s no point to collecting items that can’t be made to last!  You never know what someone might need next week…

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