Behind the Curtain: Laura Bell, Processor and Assistant to the Curator of Photographs

Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. Continue to follow over the coming months to read how and who make the magic happen!

Role: Processor and Assistant to the Curator of Photographs

Educational Background: B.A. in English with a minor in Educational Studies from St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Current MLS graduate student with a specialization in Archives and Records Management.

How she got here: During Laura’s last semester as an undergrad, she worked as a student assistant at the college library.  After graduating, she knew she wanted to pursue Library Science but was unsure what specialization to choose. Laura also wanted to be sure she was picking a path that she would enjoy so she decided to work and gain more experience.

Laura began working full time in the Access Services Department at the main academic library at West Virginia University. The people in that department were amazing and they provided great opportunities to learn skills that led to her current interests. She worked to improve her customer service skills with patrons, and she learned more about library school in general by talking with her supervisor at the time, and IU alum, Hilary Fredette.

After 6 months in Access Services, she began working in the special collections department/archive at WVU.  At the West Virginia & Regional History Center (WVRHC), she managed the historic photographs collection including selecting images to go online in the database, managing student workers, handling image requests and reproductions, and working to help with other projects.  Laura’s position at the WVRHC led her to decide on the archives specialization.  She had supportive mentors who encouraged her when she started applying to schools and making decisions. Their enthusiasm and knowledge showed her how many things archivists get to do and how they can make materials more accessible to patrons. Another alum from the program, Danielle Emerling who works at the WVRHC, coordinated with Carrie Schwier of the IU Archives to set up a time for Laura to visit the Archives when she visited the campus that spring.  After seeing everything that IU and the MLS program had to offer, she decided this would be a good place to gain the experience and knowledge she needed to become an archivist. Now, she gets to work here and she loves it.

Example of a dance card in the IU Archives Collection

Favorite Collection in the IU Archives: The IU Dance Cards Collection. It was one of the first collections that she processed.  Each dance card is unique and it was really interesting to see how many events there were on campus throughout the 1920s-1950s.

Current Project: She is currently processing the Claire Robertson papers and working on other small projects as they come up.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: Hard to pick one! She enjoys processing collections the most, but she really enjoyed researching materials and finding images for East Meets Midwest: A History of Chinese Students at Indiana University, an exhibit that was displayed in the Wells Library in March 2017.

What she’s learned from working here: Since Laura is from Maryland, the rivalry between IU and Purdue was news to her!  She also just enjoys getting to learn the general history of the university and what it was like when it first began.