Category Archives: Uncategorized

Retroactive Posting: June 2014


I was working on this post a while back and never had a chance to post it, so here it is. Trust me, this summer was bussyyy…I’m still playing catch-up. Enjoy! -AM

In the three months since I last posted, a lot has happened. I completed Spring 2014 semester classes, as well as my first semester of summer 2014 classes. LSC 557: Libraries and Information in Society was particularly enjoyable, it being the liveliest class I’ve taken so far (entirely a good thing) and included lots of debates and discussions about current trends in the information field. You know that stereotype about librarians being boring? Not true, so not true.

I am currently halfway through my summer practicum. I am working at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, my third placement at a Smithsonian unit. The others were the Anacostia Community Museum Archives (’12) and the Archives of American Art (’13). I have greatly enjoyed the experiences I’ve obtained so far. Most of my previous experience has been from the manuscript side of archives, so I was pleased at the prospect of working with audiovisual materials this summer. I am working on digitizing video footage with the Digital Services Division within SIA.

The first project I worked on during my placement was to review Here at the Smithsonian episodes and divide them into shorter “videocast” segments for eventual internet airings. The episodes date from the 1980s and feature different Smithsonian units, as well as new exhibits that the Institution wanted to publicize. From these shorter segments, I identified the ones that I found most interesting or intriguing. Because of the format and content, I felt some of the segments could be used as “throwback” exhibits highlighting anniversaries. For example, both the National Museum of African Art and the National Museum of American History celebrated their 50th anniversaries this year. It would be neat to build online exhibits highlighting their pasts, including footage of past exhibits.  The other idea I had was to utilize some of the segments featuring exhibits at the National Museum of American History, the Anacostia Community Museum and the National Air and Space Museum to examine how the Smithsonian Institution has interpreted African American history throughout the years.

As an MLIS graduate student with an interest in African American history and culture, I am always interested in the interpretation of race and public memory.  Within the Smithsonian Institution, the Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) and the National Museum of American History (NMAH) have played the biggest roles in showcasing this history, with ACM being heavily involved in educating and promoting African American history from the perspective of an individual community. In a way, until recently, ACM has served as the “default African American museum” in the Smithsonian Institution. With the construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture being currently underway on the mall, it will be fascinating to see how these roles will change. Personally, I hope to see some collaboration in programming and exhibits.

Since completing the Here at the Smithsonian footage, I have been working on the Black Aviators Videohistory Collection. The oral history project focused on interviewing five pioneers of black flight: Cornelius Coffey, Lewis Jackson, Janet Bragg, Alfred “Chief” Anderson, and Harold Hurd. Unlike many oral history projects, these interviews were captured in video.

Robbins, Illinois: home of black flight


Archives related musings in a genealogical vein…or vice versa


It’s been such a long time since I posted, I know. But, I’m still plugging away at that Master’s degree. This summer I am interning at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, working on some digitization and digital collections projects. Today, while working on the Black Aviators Videohistory collection, I discovered some interesting things about Robbins, IL. Let me preface my discovery by saying that Robbins, IL is connected to my mother’s side of the family. My gg-grandparents were Frank Witcher and Amanda Powers Witcher. Their daughter, Daisy Witcher Aycox, would go on to become  my maternal great-grandmother. Daisy had an older brother, Armstead Witcher, namesake to his grandfather, Armstead Powers.

Armstead Witcher was born around 1881, one of nine Witcher offspring. They were raised in Clarke County, Georgia, in the rural community of Sandy Creek. Like many young African American men of the time and region, Armstead didn’t learn to…

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Webwise 2014: Reflections on the convergence of education and information science



by Alyse Minter

Webwise is an annual conference hosted by the Institute of Museum and Library Science (IMLS). This year, February 10-12, it was held in Baltimore, Maryland. Webwise allows library, archives, and museum (LAM) professionals to come together and learn, network, and discuss trends and issues connected to operating digital platforms. The focus this year was Anchoring Communities. It enabled LAMs to think about programs and their impact on users, as well as utilizing current spaces and programs in innovative ways to connect with and impact communities, such as the MakerSpace movement. Twitter conversations around Webwise 2014 can be found at #WebWise2014.

The conference opened on Monday morning with a keynote address from Nick Poole, Chief Excutive Officer of Collections Trust in the UK. Poole spoke about the importance of creating ownership between communities and organizations. Many times, LAM professionals tend to view institutions as an “our,” effectively making…

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It’s 2014, baby!


In two short days, I will begin graduate classes anew. This is my fourth semester and the start of the 2nd year of my MLIS program. I’m anticipating graduation this December (it’s amazing how quickly “this December” went from being at hand to in the future). In the meantime, I’m excited about the development I see in my personal life, career, and academic studies. Some days I’m literally bouncing off the wall from excitement.

This semester I will be taking  Preservation, as well as Digital Libraries. I anticipate learning a lot about  physical collections upkeep and curation, as well as that of electronic resources and utilizing the web as a source for learning and optimizing access.  I will be involved with my university’s library and information science graduate organization, as I was last year, serving as Public Relations Officer and Webmaster.  Through this venture, I have met some great people (ahem, networking) and had some great experiences. Looking forward to doing it again. I am also planning to volunteer a few days a week at the community archives and special collections division of the city’s main public library. I want to keep my archival skills sharp as I work with collections, while learning more about outreach and planning in relation to archival collections. I met with the volunteer coordinator a few days ago and we discussed my goals and what I hope to gain from the experience. Looking forward, I am psyched, to say the least.

One of the discoveries I have made recently is that I rather love the academic library environment. I know I said that about archives and about research libraries and special collections (and I do love them all), but I had not seriously considered academic librarianship before this year. I mean, last year. That’s one perk of my present job: I am being exposed to a new library environment and gaining skills that will allow me to be a more marketable employee. Because of my new-found interest, I’m using this time to reach out to some academic librarians in my subject area of interest (history/social sciences/humanities) and conduct informational interviews, both in DC and in other states. I have already connected with a few individuals who work as liason and subject specialist librarians. I’m looking forward to hearing their insight in the upcoming weeks.

On the work side of things, we are preparing for the return of students and faculty to campus. Classes begin on Monday and as if in anticipation, activity at the library has picked up, as people return from holiday break. I mentioned in my last post about gaining experience in hiring. Over the past month, I had the opportunity to screen applications for a part-time student position, conduct multiple interviews, and extend offers of employment to some impressive young people. Starting this week, I have been engaged in training part-time employees, and it will continue through the next few weeks. Other tasks include screening applications for a full-time position in my department, assisting new faculty in getting their accounts set up, and problem solving with patron accounts. Of course, checking in and out books, assisting with consortium and interlibrary loans, and other access services tasks have been completed as usual. I’ve even shelved a few carts of books here and there. 🙂 In examining application packets, I am again reminded of the importance of presenting oneself competently and professionally. Being on the other side of the application process, let me just say, cover letters are soo important. It is the hiring committee’s first introduction to your voice. Always endeavor to make it a good introduction.

On a personal note, I’ve started dabbling in dance. Ever since I was a wee young thing, I have enjoyed creative expression and movement. During undergrad, I took the opportunity to indulge in “fun” classes, such as music, voice, and a little ballet. It’s been a while, so I decided to go back to having fun. After all, life is short, right? Currently, I am studying Modern Dance. I make no promises to be a great dancer, but it’s just a part of me loving my body and staying healthy, in an enjoyable fashion.

So that is a quick look at my upcoming semester. What professional and academic goals do you have for yourself? What steps can you take to achieve them this year? Go forth and do.

Happy New Year’s to All!

Halfway Through the Semester


It’s been a minute since I last wrote anything. I know, I know…I was supposed to return and update about the summer internship. I can certainly say it was a valuable experience and I learned a whooollle lot. I loved every minute of it! One of the biggest advantages was gaining experience in the metadata and technical side of archives. I’m looking forward to applying that knowledge in future arenas.

Since the end of the summer, I have been soo busy. After a quick break with the family in August, I quickly got back into the swing of “real life.” Currently, I am working as a Literacy Instructor. I teach emergent reading and reading remediation strategies to elementary students, which is a rewarding, but sometimes tiring job. I’m excited at the progress my kiddies have made. I am also working as a research assistant for one of the professors at my university, which has exposed me to many new discoveries and ideas in the library science field. Then, of course, there is grad school. I am currently taking two classes: Use and Users of Libraries and Information and Metadata.

I am also working with the graduate student organization for library and information science students at my university. My job title is Public Relations Officer. Part of my responsibilities has been to assist in creating a website for the organization, as well as keeping the student body informed of upcoming events and opportunities. I am also serving as a Graduate Student Association Senator. I get to attend all the meetings and be a voice for the LIS student body. It’s been a very interesting venture.

So yes, I have been very busy. But not only am I learning a lot, I am learning to be more productive with my time and prioritize things in order of importance. And I still make time for the fun things, like family, friends, and a bit of adventure here and there. 🙂

Halfway Through


I am now halfway through both my internship and my summer classes. I completed LSC 551 Organization of Information and am in the middle of LSC 553 Information Sources and Services, which deals with providing reference services within the library. As part of an assignment, I observed librarian and patron interactions in a public library special collection division. I am a people watcher, so naturally, I enjoyed that portion of the assignment. I also enjoyed interacting with the librarians and finding out how they got into their present careers. There is no one way to become a librarian or archivist.

Now for an update on the internship. I’ve been privileged to gain more than one perspective on archival work. A few weeks ago, I finished fully processing the McCrindle collection. Using Archivist’s Toolkit, I created an EAD compatible finding aid and submitted it for review to my supervisor. She gave me some preliminary feedback and I made a few corrections. Now, my finding aid is in the review portion of the workflow.

Showing off the yacht blueprints I found in the McCrindle papers. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Archives of American Art Facebook Page (

Project #2 involved getting a taste of converting legacy finding aids into EAD finding aids, using MS Excel to create spreadsheets, which through STEADY turns the data into EAD component levels. The resulting XML file allows the archivist to tweak whatever needs fixing, using coding. It is then ingested into Archivist’s Toolkit (AT). My job was to enter data from the legacy finding aids into Excel, according to the specified fields. Once the information had been ingested into AT, I went back and edited information as requested by the EAD Coordinator.

Currently, I’ve begun a new project involving item level cataloging. The practice at AAA is to include representative images with each collection that has online finding aids. In most cases, the representative image record also forms the backbone of cataloging for the collection, as the processing archivists (and I) add metadata. I will be involved in working on new accessions, locating and pulling the collections, selecting a representative image (an items that reflects the contents of the collections, could be a photograph of the creator, a piece of correspondence, etc.), filling out a removal notice (which doubles as the backbone cataloging record) and providing item level metadata, delivering the item(s) to the digitization staff, receiving it upon scanning, and replacing the item in the stacks. I’m excited because it gives me an excuse to browse the collections.  🙂

Until next time!

Confessions of an Emerging Archivist


Confession #1: Working with archival collections is something like spying on someone else’s  life. I’ve heard it said that the lovely thing about working in an archive is that you get to open people’s mail and it is not a federal offence. ‘Tis true…:)

Confession #2: I mentioned the micro spatula…well, I think removing staples is therapeutic. I inwardly cheer whenever I come across stapled papers. Don’t look at me like that, I’m normal.

Confession #3: Whoever says that the alphabet song is for babies has never alphabetized a correspondence series, especially not after 3pm. Don’t worry, I don’t sing out loud.

Confession #4: Gaining real world experience while in grad school makes all the difference in the world. It allows me to see (and hear) how information in the classroom is applied in real life.

Confession #5: I’m considering specializing in preservation of photographs. The topics of  appraisal and restoration of historic photographs fascinates me.

That’s all the confessions I could think of at the moment, besides that I have one more week left in my first summer term. Tomorrow I get to interview a library professional, only I chose to interview the assistant curator at a research center, because I am interested in working with specialized collections.

This past week has been spent rearranging the collection according to series.  I have labeled the folders and sorted the contents of the collection, according to the categories I established. For example: Correspondence – Friends and Colleagues, Biographical and Family Materials – Burials and Cemeteries, Print Material – Articles and Clippings. I have been keeping mental and written  notes on the arrangement. Tomorrow, I will likely begin writing series description, which means describing the contents of each series and detailing the specific entities researchers will be interested in. This entails describing  the scope of the collections, such as who is in the photographs and what institutions are included in the correspondence series.

Have a terrific Tuesday!