Teresa Mora

Teresa is the Supervisory Archivist of the Manuscripts Unit at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley

I very much “fell into” the archives profession. After receiving my undergraduate degree in United States History I knew what I didn’t want to do –be a teacher or a lawyer– but I wasn’t sure what came next if I still wanted to work in history. Luckily I had a professor who not only knew of the Public History field but encouraged her students to pursue this specialty. I began looking into museum work and spent a summer interning at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. It was there that I finally discovered my love of archives. For me it was the perfect meld of teaching, independent historical research and physical work, and I began researching graduate programs. As someone who knew she wanted to “do” history, I never really considered any route other than obtaining a Masters in History in order to break into archives. To this day I feel this approach to archives greatly enhances my capabilities as a professional archivist.

The NYU program provided essential hands on experience combined with a small cohort and a rigorous academic curriculum, all of which prove unique in comparison to the majority of archival training programs in the country. Although I graduated from NYU in 1999 I very much consider that my archival career began in 1997 when I started the program. In addition to the required practicum I served as a Graduate Assistant in the University Archives where I not only processed collections and encoded finding aids but served on the reference desk. By my second year in the program I was working as a consultant for St. Mark’s Church on the Bowery, organizing their archives for the celebration of the church’s bicentennial as well as developing and mounting an exhibit for the anniversary.

I have no question that it was this extensive hands on experience and the connections that I made while a student at NYU that led to my being offered my first job out of school as a project archivist at the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS). There I continued to hone my skills, assisting in a collection move, participating in grant reporting and, of course, processing. After the end of the BHS project my NYU connections came to play once again and I took the position of Assistant Archivist at the American Civil Liberties Union. A markedly different job in which I was essentially a corporate archivist, the position prepared me immeasurably for what was to be the job that brought me back to California (my home state).  In 2003 I moved back west for a project gig working on the records of the NAACP at The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley and I’ve been here ever since. My temporary appointment eventually transitioned to a permanent one and I currently serve as the Supervisory Archivist of the Manuscripts unit.

The Bancroft Library is one of the largest special collections libraries in the country and our manuscripts holdings are in excess of 50,000 linear feet and growing. Our collections range in size and scope from individual Gold Rush diaries to the Records of the Sierra Club (comprising over 400 linear feet). As you may deduce from my title, my primary responsibility is supervising the processing of our manuscript holdings. However, given the size and scope of our holdings much of my time is focused on reviewing strategies for best serving such a large collection. In addition to supervising processing, I recently led a project to survey our entire manuscripts holdings; am involved in the development of a collection management system; and author and administer grants. Additionally I still manage to carve out some time to devote to the many diverse tasks that initially led me to archives including teaching, serving on the reference desk and, when time allows, processing my own collections.

Posted December 2011

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