Jennifer WileyCAS Cultural Heritage PreservationReflection Paper From the time I was in the eighth grade I planned on going into architecturalpreservation. I entered the University of Virginia in the fall of 2005 having already declared mymajor as architectural history. Everything was right on track until I hit the biggest roadblock ofmy life in the fall semester of my second year: design studio. A requirement for my planneddegree, I quickly discovered that I just didn’t have the skin for such a field. However, I hadnever even considered a different path and struggled through the spring semester that year to findan alternative route. Over the course of my third year I decided on Classics with a focus inLatin, having taken it from seventh grade through twelfth. Though not as interested in the actuallanguage, I had always been fascinated by the history of Ancient Rome. But again I was facing aroadblock. What on earth was I going to do with a BA in Latin? I certainly had no interest inteaching or in pursuing a PhD for it. Somehow the answer fell into my lap. In a search for a job over the summer between my third and fourth years at UVA, Iapplied for a job as a student digitization assistant in the Small Special Collections Library oncampus. Although I had no previous experience in any sort of library position, I quickly fell inlove with working with the range of rare materials, especially the manuscript collections. WhenI graduated in 2009, I was no longer eligible to work in the library, but my supervisorrecommended me for a summer internship at a nearby historical society building a database forand properly storing their museum collection. By the end of that summer, I was sure I hadfinally found the right field for me. Although my various paths seem at first to be drastically different, at the core they are allcentered on a passion not just for history, but for preserving it and making it accessible to a wide
audience. When I began hearing back from schools for pursuing my graduate degree in libraryscience, Syracuse made the decision for me. Dr. Lavender contacted me after having lookedover my application to inform me of a program he thought would be of interest to me based onmy past experiences. The moment I began to read the description of the certificate of advancedstudy in cultural heritage preservation, I knew I would be going to Syracuse. I really liked theway it combined library science, museums, and anthropology and the way it avoidedpigeonholing candidates by leaving the title applicable to any version of the field. With theCAS, I would be eligible for work in archives, museums, special collections libraries, and anynumber of nontraditional institutions. I have found all of the classes I have taken with Dr. Lavender to be extremely valuable.My favorite was IST 628 Organization and Management of Archives Collections, a course Dr.Lavender strongly recommended I take. Not only did I find the content extremely interesting,but the final project of building an archival collection and preparing the documentation for it wasarguably the most valuable project I completed over the course of my entire graduate degree. Ifeel that learning how to properly process the collection, describe the collection, develop formsfor the collection, and finally write an EAD finding aid for the collection will all be oftremendous value to me in my future career. Outside of the library science department, I found MUS 500 Museums and ContemporaryPractice to be eye opening. Over the course of the class, I saw first hand how individuals with abackground in library and information science could find various ways to develop a career in amuseum environment. By looking at a large range of institutions, I became aware of manyalternative routes I could look into following to find the best option for my own career. While
Dr. Lavender’s courses gave me valuable hands-on experience, this course offered me a valuabletake on just how far outside of the norm my career could take me. I’ve also gained equally valuable experience outside the classroom through the requiredinternship hours for the CAS as well as through volunteering for institutions that I learned ofthrough my courses. Due to the size of the collection I was tasked with processing for myinternship for IST 971 at the Special Collections Research Center on campus, I chose to staywith the same position for the full 300 credit hours required. Using the classroom knowledge Igained from IST 628, I surveyed, processed, documented, and boxed the bulk of the “BenShaktman Papers” collection over the summer and fall semesters of 2011. While there I gotgreat exposure to what kind of successes arise and the kind of problems that must be faced whileprocessing a collection in the real world. The biggest struggle we had was time. While I washoping to be able to finish the entire collection and create the EAD finding aid, I eventually hadto face the reality that it was just not feasible in the time I was allotted. Because of this, I had toprioritize parts of the collection above others and readjust the amount of time dedicated to eachpart. I was still, however, able to process a large portion of the collection to either the box orfolder level (depending on the series) and helped make some important decisions on what wouldbe kept or returned to the donor. In the end, my experiences at SCRC ended up being a factor inmy getting a position as an archivist intern for a senator in Washington, DC starting a few daysafter graduation. There I will be helping to process 25 years worth of documentation inpreparation for being sent to an offsite repository. Within the various courses taken toward the CAS, I also was exposed to many differentinstitutions in and around Syracuse. Not only did this offer me example after example of thedifferent kinds of cultural heritage institutions that could eventually be a career choice for me,
but it also lead to two very valuable volunteering positions. Between February and May of 2011,I volunteered for the Onondaga Historical Association doing research for their revitalized “Heartof New York” exhibit. Combining outside research with onsite research using the museum’scollections, I gathered information on the various ethnic enclaves around the city of Syracuse,the many annual festivals celebrating the ethnic histories of the people of Syracuse, the historiesof several ethnic churches, and information about the LGBT community in Syracuse. I thenwrote text to be used for the exhibits and handouts, gathered items from the museum’s collectionto be used in the exhibit, and even traveled around the city taking pictures of relevant subjects forthe exhibit. This experience in the work that goes into creating and installing an exhibit will beof great value to me should I end up working in a museum or museum library, but also for theexhibits done in special collections libraries and archives. I am also currently volunteering at the Erie Canal Museum, creating and updating catalogrecords for items in their manuscript collection. Additionally, I am providing conditionstatements and re-housing items in need as I go. This has again offered me exposure to yetanother aspect to the field that I have had limited real life experience with before that willundoubtedly be necessary for my career down the line. Finally, I need to add that the networkingopportunities provided through my internship and volunteer work have been invaluable to me,having used many of those I’ve worked with as references in my job hunt. The CAS in Cultural Heritage Preservation sealed the deal for my coming to SyracuseUniversity for my MLIS and it has not let me down. I have no doubt that the knowledge I havegained both in my coursework and out of the classroom experiences will not only be beneficial tomy future career, but necessary. I feel that this experience has complimented not only my MLIS,but my undergraduate studies and personal interests and helped me hone in on a career that will
not only open multiple doors for me, but will give me a sense of accomplishment working in afield I truly enjoy.