Margaret Fraser

Margaret is the Oral History Archivist for the Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations Project at the Brooklyn Historical Society. She continues to conduct interviews for theNew York City Taxi Drivers Oral History Project, which she started while a student in the Archives and Public History Program at NYU.

I graduated from the Archives and Public History Program at NYU in the spring of 2011 after finishing a degree in History at Bryn Mawr College. While in college, I had a few great opportunities, working in Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections, at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and as a Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress. I chose the NYU program for many reasons, but the location, the small size, and the freedom to take courses outside of the History Department were at the top of my list.

While at NYU, I had the opportunity to work at both the Tamiment Library/Wagner Labor Archives as well as the NYU Archives.  Through my internship seminar, I worked at theBrooklyn Historical Society where I cataloged oral histories from the Brooklyn Navy Yard Collection. During my internship, I found that what I loved about working in archives, the physical interaction with the past, was amplified through the voices and emotions of oral history. In order to better understand the material I was working with, I decided to use my capstone project as a chance to carry out an oral history project from start to finish. Along with a fellow student, we created the New York City Taxi Driver Oral History Project, a project I continue to work on today (for more about this project check out page 3 of the most recent issue of Archival Outlook Jan/Feb 2012).

After graduation, I spent the summer working for an entertainment company, implementing a digital asset management system to organize and describe thousands of digital images created for a children’s cartoon show. In the fall, I happily returned to theBrooklyn Historical Society, where I work on Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations–an oral history project and public programming series about mixed heritage families in Brooklyn.

My advice to current students would be to take advantage of your student status! Go to local conferences at the student rate or take advantage of travel awards for those further away, visit museums with a student discount, don’t miss opportunities to tour and visit institutions around the city, and take advantage of the support and advice of your professors if you have an idea for a program or project. The reality is that even with a great program and a competitive resume, the job search is still going to be tough. Get involved with interesting organizations, attend and help organize local conferences, or author your own project or article. Try to diversify your experience as much as possible, think outside the archival box (they aren’t all acid free), and be flexible. At the same time, don’t forget about your motivation for doing this kind of work and your own professional goals.

And most importantly, keep in mind that the students you are in school with now will soon be professional colleagues who you will rely on for support and advice throughout your career.

Posted February 2012

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