1) How did you first become interested in Public History?
I first became interested in Public History as a community organizer in Montreal, where I worked at a community kitchen and in solidarity with a local indigenous community. These organizations and campaigns had frequent turnover in membership, and therefore frequent loss of institutional and political memory. I often found myself assuming the role of historian, and became interested in learning techniques for creating historical memory in social justice organizations.
2) What has your career trajectory looked like?
After being out of undergrad for a few years, I moved to New York to start the Masters Program in Archives and Public History at NYU. At the same time, I began working at the Tamiment Library and Wagner Labor Archives as a graduate archival assistant. This was a natural fit for me because I had a background in communist history, and this work experience led me to become interested in the intersection between archives and public history. I graduated from the Archives and Public History Program in 2012, and have since worked at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Tamiment Library. Recently I accepted a new position at the Queens Library, where I will be working on a grant project funded by the Knight Foundation. In partnership with the Metropolitan New York Library Council and the Brooklyn Public Library, the “Culture in Transit” team will bring mobile scanning kits to branch libraries and small cultural heritage institutions to digitize materials from the communities these institutions serve. Digitized materials will be shared through local digital archives and through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). I’m looking forward to this project as a way of bringing together my interests in archives, digitization and public history.
3) Can you tell us about the purpose and mission of the Interference Archive?
The Interference Archive is an all-volunteer run community archive that explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements. I was the primary organizer for the archive’s current exhibition, We Won’t Move: Tenants Organize in New York City. The exhibition examines the history of the tenant movement between the 1940s and the present. In addition to highlighting the diverse array of tactics employed by tenant organizers, the exhibition situates the fight for affordable housing within racial and economic justice struggles. I worked with a group of six other volunteers to do research at ten archives and to conduct outreach to over a dozen tenant organizations from across NYC. The exhibition displays flyers, posters, photographs, newspaper clippings and audio recordings, and strives to connect current campaigns with historical organizing. We timed the opening to coincide with the expiration of New York’s rent laws in June 2015.
We created a programming series to accompany the exhibition. We have hosted “Know Your Rights” trainings, film screenings, and panel discussions. We have had great conversations exploring the connections between policing and gentrification, and the roles and limitations of lawyers in the tenant movement. The success of these events has made it clear that New Yorkers are looking for spaces to discuss and learn about their changing communities and their rights as tenants. We also produced an amazing catalog, which brings together the historical content from the exhibition and pairs it with tenant resources, such as a directory, glossary and guide to the organizations who contributed to the show.
4) What are the challenges and benefits of working at an all-volunteer archive?
At an all-volunteer institution people are all donating their professional labor, and have diverse experiences and skills. We worked with an amazing designer, Greg Mihalko, to put the show and catalog together, and many people brought their knowledge and talents to the project. However, it is challenging balancing work and volunteer projects.
5) Have you had any mentors working in the field who influenced you?
I have a number of mentors, many of whom I met as a student in the Archives and Public History program. A few of these people are Melitte Buchman (NYU), Bix Gabriel (International Coalition of Sites of Conscience), and Prithi Kanakamedala (Brooklyn Historical Society, where I interned on the In Pursuit of Freedom project and learned a lot about exhibition development). And of course Peter Wosh has always provided me with advice and guidance both during the program and since graduating.
6) How do you stay connected with other alums?
I have stayed connected to other APH alums who live in NYC through social functions and through working on common projects. I also see alums at conferences like SAA and MARAC, which are great for keeping in touch with people in the field.
7) What advice would you give current students embarking on a study of Public History?
Do internships and get diverse work experience to figure out your interests. Take advantage of opportunities and keep options open because you never know what doors they will open professionally.
8)What are some of your other interests?
I play the drums and enjoy baking.