Behind the Curtain: Katie Morrison, Archives Assistant

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. 

What is your role in the IU Archives? Katie works as a processor in the IU Archives.  She helps with the arrangement and description of record collections.

What is your educational background? Katie’s educational background is rather impressive.  In 2012, She graduated with a BA from Purdue University, where she majored in Art History and minored in both English and History.  In 2014, she graduated from the University of Colorado with her MA in Art History.  She is currently working on obtaining her MLS with a specialization in Archives and Records Management. She will graduate in the summer of 2019. She was recently accepted into the PhD program in Information Science at IU and will start fall of 2019!

What previous experience do you have in archives? Her fascination with the archival field began at a young age.  This was due in part to her parents, both of whom are history professors.  This fascination followed her into adulthood, all the way to the University of Colorado.  While working on her master’s thesis, Katie spent a fair amount of time with the Jerome P. Cavanaugh Papers and Detroit Free Press photographs at the Walter Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs.  Though she had enjoyed her previous use of online archival resources, it was this experience that held the greatest impact on her.  “It was pretty much the transformative experience of my life…. that hands-on experience was big for me,” says Morrison.

What attracted you to work in the IU Archives? Katie approached the IU Archives after some encouragement from other student workers to apply.  “I knew this would be the best place on campus to get hands-on processing knowledge, and everyone I met was instantly encouraging and warm”, she says.  It would also seem that she has found camaraderie with several co-workers who also happen to be Boilermakers.  “Go Purdue!”

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives? The Leon Varjian papers are Katie’s favorite collection in the IU Archives.  “IU is fortunate to have such great documentation of counterculture happenings on campus in the 1960s and 1970s. Varjian’s cartoon map of Bloomington as “Fun City” reminds me of some of my favorite irreverent counterculture art collectives like Drop City. It’s smart without being pretentious, funny, and inherently political.”

What project are you currently working on? Katie curated an installed an exhibit here, “Thomas Sebeok and the Scientific Self,” using materials from his collection (she is also close to finishing the processing of that collection). She wanted to show how Sebeok brought together a range of disciplines in his scholarship. “There remains such a mystique about how academics think and work, and I wanted to demystify that a bit while still acknowledging his prolific intellect.” The exhibit is open through the end of March.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives? Despite being a “cynical person”, Katie says that every week brings a new favorite experience.  “Everything from reading letters written in the 19th century, to installing an exhibition, to encoding finding aids…it’s all a joy,” she says. She particularly enjoys assisting with outreach and class sessions with undergraduates.

What is something you have learned about IU by working in the Archives? Overall, Katie has learned that IU has a deep and rich history.  The knowledge of this history would not be possible without the hard work put in by the University Archives and its affiliates.  “The diversity of materials and stories contained in this archive is extraordinary. People may think a university-centered archive would be a) dull or b) small and boutique-like. Really, it is the opposite! The IU Archives has a kaleidoscope of times, materials, perspectives, and experiences to share.”

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