More than ever, we are creating electronic traces of our lives and electronic records in our work. Whether you transfer your department’s records to University Archives or you are donating personal papers to the Special Collections, we want your digital material! We collect transfers and donations regardless of format; we are interested in the records or papers you create, physical and digital alike.
Making sure our collections are properly described, housed, and discoverable is an ongoing task in Special Collections. As time goes on, the boxes, folders, and other packing materials we use to store collections wear out or become acidic, and collections require new storage options for their continued preservation.
After a full academic year working at the Special Collections Research Center, I came to reflect on why my experience as an Archives and Manuscript Collections apprentice has meant so much to me. It may sound trite but this assistantship has not only stimulated my professional interest in archives management, it also gave me the opportunity to learn so much about a variety of peoples and topics through the collections I processed. Indeed, the diversity of projects and materials is among my favorite aspects of the job. For instance, after organizing the papers of individuals ranging from a Virginia anti-suffragette to a 20th century potter, I was assigned a singular task: describing the fascinating and quite surprising travel diary of a fourteen year-old American girl who visited fascist Italy in 1935.
Like few other historical events, the Second World War exerts a deep fascination in our collective memory, as shown by the extent to which WW II stories abound in popular culture. Now fully processed, the papers of war nurse Mary Frances Switzer at the Special Collections Research Center offer an absorbing – though less commonly heard – point of view of war experiences on the ground. Last March, the National Women’s History Project selected “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives” as its theme to enhance the integration of “women’s stories – individually and collectively – into the essential fabric of our nation’s history.” Archives play a key role in ensuring the preservation of women’s voices and the recognition of their role in shaping our past.
I recently processed the papers of Christopher Bram, a 1974 graduate of William & Mary and novelist. His papers are regularly used in library instruction sessions for creative writing students, and having a more complete description will provide faster and easier access for both our researchers and staff.