“I get to work with historical materials every day?” That was my first thought when I heard Marilyn H. Pettit introduce the NYU Archives and Public History Program to a group of undergraduate history students, including myself, at NYU. Since then, I have spent 20 years working with some of the richest original materials in New York City. My career is varied and included positions at archives of different sizes and focuses. While still an undergraduate majoring in history, I worked at the NYU Archives, and at the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives to gain an understanding of archival administration. I enjoyed working in the archives and enrolled in the graduate program. The NYU Archives and Public History Program gave me a good foundation of the core principles of archival processing, access and preservation.
My first archival job after graduate school was at the New York City Municipal Archives. The NYC Municipal Archives has a treasure trove of Department of Parks’ drawings, Mayor’s photographs and documents. During my time at the NYC Municipal Archives, I applied and was selected to participate in the NHPRC Archival Management Fellowship Program. My 10-month fellowship was at the Minnesota Historical Society, which houses the State Archives and State Library. My experience at the Minnesota Historical Society was richly rewarding as I learned how to apply archival processing and description methods to collections at a large scale.
I returned to New York City after the fellowship ended and started working at the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, now the Museum of Chinese in America. The collections were composed of photographs, objects, documents, books and audio-video material. I was a lone arranger and did everything related to the collections ranging from reference to exhibition registrar to object preservation and implementing community history programs. Although my concentration was Archives in the NYU Archives and Public History Program, I took two public history courses which gave me the skills to document community history. The fondest memories I have is listening to and recording the stories of Chinese Americans who grew up in Chinatown during the 1940s and 1950s and those who fought in World War II. I am now the Digital Repository and Special Collections Librarian at the Ford Foundation, managing the print and digital archival collections of the institution. Although a lot of my work involves electronic records, the basic archival principles of provenance, arrangement and processing, learned during my graduate training in the NYU Archives and Public History Program, are absolutely relevant in the digital realm.
Posted Summer 2011