Tales of a Student Archivist

Greetings!  My name is Samantha, or Sam, Fawcett, and I work as the Carlson Intern at the American Heritage Center.  The Carlson Internship is funded through an endowment generously donated by Gerald Meyer , past Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences .  The endowment provides funding for an upper division undergraduate or graduate student to process and help manage records of the College of Arts and Sciences, including the papers of A&S faculty.

I was hired in January by Laura Jackson, university archivist, and I must say that my nerdy heart was extremely excited to be working in the archives. As a senior in Anthropology and History at the University of Wyoming, I am fascinated when historical records document cultures of the past. When I graduate, whenever that may be, I hope to combine the two fields and work in ethnohistory or historical archaeology.

I have now worked at the AHC for about seven months, and after getting lost several times in the building, I can honestly say that I have learned a great deal about processing collections, making materials researcher friendly, archival and AHC procedures, and paper cut avoidance tactics (an unfortunate and rarely preventable job hazard). The learning continues daily. For instance while processing the UW Dept. of Zoology and Physiology records, I learned that musquash is another term for muskrat but it is mostly used in Canada. I expect that after a few more years, I can make my debut on Jeopardy with all the knowledge I’ve gained here.

Other interesting collections I have been working on include the papers of Vicki Lindner  and the Department of History Oral History Project records.  Lindner was a fiction writer, essayist, journalist, and Associate Professor Emerita at the University of Wyoming.  Much of her research was on ghost towns and is documented in the collection.  The Department of History Oral History Project records contain audio recordings that range in topic from the benefits of mules versus horses to UFO sightings in Casper.  After listening to the tapes, I can honestly say this collection is worth looking at.

My job functions are two-fold however, as I am also working on a special project to create an online finding aid for the University of Wyoming President’s Office records. The records of the President’s Office date back to the University’s founding in 1887 and total over 500 cubic feet.  About half of the collection has an accurate paper finding aid, while the second half has a very disorganized listing of file names and needs a lot of work.  My daily task is essentially to re-key the paper inventory while intellectually organizing the materials into series.  This will make the collection much more accessible because it will be key-word searchable; materials will be organized by president; and the inventory will be available on the web, through the Rocky Mountain Online Archive .   There is some interesting material on topics such as student scandals during prohibition, communism when the Cold War broke out, and the beginnings of War Memorial Stadium.  Hopefully it will be online by October 2011.

Next on the Carlson processing list is the University of Wyoming Department of Music collection. The collection is fairly small, however there are several interesting scrapbooks.  Other collections in the queue are the Wyoming Folklife Archive and the Wyoming Infrared Observatory records.  As my processing skills and knowledge increase, I hope to work on slightly bigger collections.  Whatever this position has in store for me in the future, I’m sure the work will continue to be interesting and challenging.

–Samantha Fawcett, Carlson Intern

This entry was posted in faculty/staff profiles, resources, undergraduate students, University of Wyoming history. Bookmark the permalink.

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