Maurita Baldock is currently the Curator of Manuscripts at the New-York Historical Society.
Like many of us who work in the archival field, my first experience with archives was somewhat serendipitous. I had recently graduated with a history degree from Loyola University of Chicago and decided to volunteer at a museum or library. I called the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum) and the only section of the institution taking volunteers for Saturday afternoons was the Manuscript department in the library. I began volunteering there under longtime archivist Archie Motley, and quickly realized that I looked forward to my Saturdays working with original materials there much more than my day job at a law firm. After this experience, I decided to explore a volunteer position at the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. I was lucky that my time there turned into a short-term paid position to process the oversize ephemera materials from the Warshaw Collection, the largest advertising ephemera collection in the United States.
Now that I understood the excitement of working with original historical materials, I sought out a graduate program that best suited my interests. The NYU program, which at the time included a Masters in History and a Certificate in Archival Management and Historical Editing, was perfect for my ambitions. During my time there I was fortunate to work as a Graduate Assistant in the NYU Archives with Nancy Cricco and was encouraged by program director Dr. Peter Wosh to seek out rewarding internships at institutions such as the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.
After graduation I began working as a processing archivist at the New-York Historical Society. The manuscripts at N-YHS include diverse collections of family papers and organizational and business records that document the lives of significant New Yorkers as well as the experiences of often under-served groups in the city, such as orphans and the homeless. Every collection I processed told a different story than the one before it.
After working on a variety of collections for five years, I was promoted to be the Curator of Manuscripts. In my current position, I oversee all areas of the manuscript collections including supervising processing projects, managing archival internships, making collection development decisions, and reaching out to potential donors. In addition to these responsibilities I am also the Institutional Archivist at N-YHS in which I accession and process materials relating to the history of the Society. I also recently helped start a library blog and was a contributor to a trivia book on New York based on researcher queries entitled, When Did the Statue of Liberty Turn Green?. (Sample questions include “What is the New-York Historical Society, and why is New-York hyphenated?”) No two days in my job are the same, which is what makes it so remarkable.
I sincerely believe that the classes, internships, and overall guidance I received in the NYU program opened up many opportunities for me and prepared me for my future endeavors. The classes were academically challenging but also provided practical lessons in archival theory and practice. There is a sense of community with the professors, students and graduates of the program that is helpful for working in specific historical fields. The program has a strong alumni network and, as many of us end up as lone arrangers, it is good to know that you can always rely on your NYU connections for advice and encouragement.