How often have you stopped to think about the wonder that is the copy machine? If you were like me, not often at all—as students, interns, and young professionals most of us probably spent more time being warmed by the light of the copy machine than we would like to think about. Not until I began processing papers regarding Chester Carlson, the inventor of the copy machine, did I think about the enduring significance of this decidedly unglamorous invention. Carlson invented xerography in 1938, which combined electrostatic printing with photography. Although most copy machines have incorporated digital technology, most still employ Carlson’s original xerographic process, and laser printers are based on the same technology. Compared to other pieces of office equipment, the copy machine after decades remains a centerpiece of office life. So why does William and Mary have Chester Carlson’s papers? Carlson was a major donor to the Sarah Bonwell Hudgins Center in Hampton, Virginia, which serves developmentally disabled children and adults. About half of the papers in the Sarah Bonwell Hudgins Foundation Records relate to Carlson, demonstrating the Center’s pride of their association with the inventor.
Often when I tell people that I’m working on making a database of all the scrapbooks in the Special Collections Research Center, I get a reaction something like, “Oh, that’s nice,” a reaction with subtext that seems to say “oh-that’s-nice-but-not-something-actually-significant-like-Thomas-Jefferson’s-letters.” And while the correspondence of our illustrious college alumnus certainly holds the utmost importance for the historical narrative of our country, the value of the everyday person’s point of view can sometimes be lost in the search for those of history’s best and brightest.
I’m a junior at the College of William and Mary, and I started cataloging blueprints in the Special Collections Research Center in the Fall of 2009. Most of the blueprints are of buildings on the campus, but many other places are represented too; I have cataloged dozens of blueprints from Eastern State Hospital, some off campus houses that have become administrative buildings, and a few surveys of the College’s ownings as a whole.
I came to the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) in the Fall, excited yet a little nervous about beginning my Graduate Assistantship. I had heard wonderful things from other graduate students about their time as Graduate Assistants in the SCRC, and so I was enthused about beginning my assistantship here. Additionally, even though my plan was to become a professor after completing my PhD program in American Studies here at W&M, I wanted to open my mind up to other possible career trajectories. My nervousness came from not knowing much about what archivists do, and hoping that I could pick up the necessary skills quickly.
I am not an archivist. Old and fragile documents have scared me for as long as I can remember. Not in a masked murderer kind of way, of course, but in the sense that at any moment while handling archival material, one can accidentally drop a priceless artifact or tear a centuries-old newspaper. That’s pressure I’d normally like to avoid when possible. On top of that unnerving, but not necessarily crippling fear, there are the allergies. Archivists do what they can to minimize dust and the like, but it’s pretty inescapable considering the amount of old stuff they’ve got to house in a relatively small area. I have to pop a couple antihistamines just to walk through the door most of the time.
Greetings from Swem Library at the College of William and Mary! My name is Michael Lusby and I am currently an intern in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). My internship began in the fall of 2009, which was also my first semester in the Master’s program for American History at William and Mary. Beginning with very little experience in archives, I quickly increased my familiarity with the work of archivists through a myriad of projects and tasks.
Hello, world. My name is Kaitlyn Gardy and I am the SCRC’s Apprentice in Computing Humanities for 2009-2010. Although I’ve only worked at the SCRC since the beginning of the fall semester, I have completed two really exciting projects that highlight exhibits and items available in Special Collections. Here’s an update on what I’ve done so far.