In January of 2009, I graduated from the Archives and Public History program at New York University. During my time in the program I was fortunate to work part-time as an archival assistant in NYU’s University Archives, where I answered research requests from within the university and from outside researchers, digitized photographs and documents for preservation and research purposes, became familiar with the Archivists’ Toolkit, and processed the Irving Godt Papers 1952-2002. While I was already familiar with conducting research in an archive, I had never worked behind the scenes: it was an invaluable experience to read about selecting, appraising, arranging, and describing archives and manuscripts in class while physically conducting many of those tasks under the supervision of University Archivist, Nancy Cricco, and Assistant University Archivist, Janet Bunde.
My interest in public history was initiated by the diversity of the field and the opportunity for public historians to conduct a wide range of research using a multitude of different tools. As an undergraduate History major at Macalester College I realized that my love of history did not lie in a specific period or geographic location, but rather in the connection between local history and how community members interpret their own personal history. In the summer of 2005, I had the opportunity to work with several faculty members in the History Department at Macalester to develop a course, “The Global in the Local,” which introduces first-year students to global historical issues by investigating local, Twin Cities case studies. Upon graduation in 2007, I spent the summer working on the Macalester Oral History Project, conducting oral histories with a variety of retired and current faculty members in order to document and share recollections of their experiences at Macalester, and perceptions of the history of the college.
While at NYU I had the opportunity to work with the Margaret Sanger papers and explore the work of historical editing, conduct oral histories with Judson Memorial Church members, research the redevelopment of the Brooklyn waterfront and historic preservation of the Domino Sugar Factory, and intern at the Old Stone House of Brooklyn. These projects were complemented by my introduction to the exciting work being done in new media, digitization of historic documents, and the increasingly universal access to online archives. My thesis, “Coney Island Redevelopment and the Impact of New Media: Using Online Forums to Rethink Historic Preservation” focuses on using new forms of social media such as blogs and other online forums to allow the residents of Coney Island to have a voice in the historic preservation and redevelopment process that is currently taking place. The wide array of research methods I was exposed to at NYU has allowed me to feel comfortable in many aspects of the field of archives and public history.
The overwhelming sense of community within the APH program among both students and faculty is an extremely important aspect of the program. Remarkably, I have witnessed this community flourish even after graduation, evidenced by the willingness of former classmates to review each others’ drafts of personal statements and resumes. Further, in February of 2009 I was hired as an Assistant Research Scholar at the NYU University Archives to help process and arrange the vertical files of the Research Institute of Man. Upon completion of this project I continued to receive support and guidance from Director of APH, Professor Peter Wosh and University Archivist, Nancy Cricco.
I am currently working as a Program Associate for National History Day in Minnesota, at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, serving 6-12 grade students in Southeast, Central, and West Central Minnesota. My year begins in September, working to recruit new schools to the program, conducting teacher workshops, and interpreting the annual theme on which projects must focus. From November to February I travel around the state of Minnesota teaching students thesis statements, project organization, and in many cases I get to directly help students conduct library and archival research. To see teenagers excited to use microfilm or diligently scour online journals is, for me, the ultimate reward of my job. Throughout the month of March, thirteen regional events are held in the Twin Cities metro area and throughout Greater Minnesota, and in May the State competition is held at the University of Minnesota. In 2008, Minnesota voters approved a proposed Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which – along with providing taxpayer support to restore, protect, and enhance Minnesota’s wildlife and environment – provides money to preserve Minnesota’s history, cultural heritage, arts, and arts education. This amendment has largely made my job and many others at the Minnesota Historical Society possible, making it an exciting time to work in the field of archives and public history in the state of Minnesota. National History Day is supported in nearly every state throughout the country, including American Samoa and Guam: as many states are currently conducting regional and State History Day competitions, please consider volunteering as a judge. The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest is held in June at the University of Maryland, College Park. To learn more about National History Day, go to www.nhd.org.
Posted April 2011