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CIC “Humanities Research for the Public Good”

May 4, 2022

In the Spring of 2020, our college was awarded a “Humanities Research for the Public Good” grant from the Council of Independent Colleges. This was pre-covid and pre-our archivist leaving to take another job. Fast forward to November of 2021, when I took over mid-way through the project as the “collection professional” on the grant team. Student researchers from an Advanced Public History course had been meeting in the archives with their professor and our former archivist twice a week to research in our archives. In the spring, an Intro to Public History course began which added about 10 researchers to the project who worked on teams with the experienced researchers to finish the research and begin building an exhibit.

I definitely did not feel like a collections professional once I took over. I was not overly familiar with our collections but thankfully, we had two experienced student workers in the archives who had been working there since their freshman year. These students were able to continue finding and pulling items for the researchers in the class which kept up the progress on this project. We also relied heavily on them to help us make decisions on which items were OK to be only display and which were more fragile and would need to be scanned for a printed reproduction. I often felt like I existed only to be the “bad cop” who had to say no. However, what I learned from other “collections professionals” at the closing workshop for the grant is that saying no, is what makes me an honorary archivist – LOL!

At times this project felt like it was not going to come together but I am excited to say that tomorrow, Thursday, May 5th, we are hosting the opening reception for “Dynamic Decades: W&J and Washington in the Midst of Social Change”. The physical exhibit will be up in our library through the beginning of the fall semester so if you’re in Washington and have a chance to stop by the Clark Family Library we welcome you to check it out. Over the summer we’re open Monday-Friday regular business hours. There’s also a website that a group of senior Computing & Information Studies students are putting together. I understand there are some finishing touches still being added to this site but once it’s live I’ll link it in the comments.

Last weekend I and the other members of our project team traveled to Baltimore for the closing workshop for CIC grant and I was excited to see so many other PA libraries represented. I hope that someone from these institutions sees my post and adds links and info to their projects in the comments because they all deserve to be celebrated!

I talked to the teams from Carlow University, Muhlenberg College, St. Vincent College, & Thiel College. During the poster presentations I was able to talk with the student researchers for each project and I was impressed by both their depth of understanding and their passion for what they accomplished. Opportunities for students to engage with special collections can often be limited but for those who get the opportunity they obviously benefit from it greatly.

I’m proud to be part of the network of awesome academic libraries in PA!

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