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IUB Archives

Behind the Curtain: Alex Caba, 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.

Alex Caba, IU Archives Archives Assistant

What was your title and role in the IU Libraries?

I was a Graduate Assistant in the Indiana University Archives, for a year and a half. Additionally, during my time as an MLS student I have also enjoyed my work as a Scholars’ Commons Reference Assistant.

What is your educational background?

I got my bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in German Studies from Smith College in 2021. I focused on Eastern and Central European history, and the connections between history, culture, and memory. I will be graduating this May with my Master of Library Science with a specialization in Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Tell us about your previous work experience?

When I was an undergraduate, I began working as an archival page for the Smith College Special Collections. I helped researchers, paged archival materials and rare books, and worked on a collection-wide metadata update project. It was at the Smith College Special Collections that I learned this was the field I wanted to spend the rest of my career in.

How did you do working at the IU Archives?

I have mainly worked in processing collections, supervised by Assistant Archivist, Katie Morrison. I also helped with reference questions, and occasionally aided in classroom preparation and instruction.

Do you have a favorite experience (or something you’re most proud of) from working with the IU Archives?

I am very proud of the time that a museum in Europe contacted us because they had discovered that document in their collection was likely originally owned by someone who had fled Nazi Germany, and we had a document that was from the same auction lot. I was able to use my German language skills to determine the provenance of the document held by IU, giving the museum a lead to continue their research to give proper credit to their collection. It was very gratifying to be able to contribute to that kind of reparative research.

What project are you currently working on?

I have spent this school year working on processing materials to be added into the Office of the President collection of President Elvis J. Stahr Jr. The materials spanned every function and event of the university from 1962-1968, so it provided a wonderful insight into the history of the university and the breadth of what can be researched in university archives. It also includes a lot of interdepartmental communication, the kind of which would now all be in emails, but it let me stumble on a lot of funny correspondence.

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives?

In the President’s Office records, 1962-1968, there are papers from President Stahr’s official entertainment, including the menus and the table settings. I love the preservation of the mundane fact that at a certain luncheon they had lemonade served on the lawn or the seating arrangements for a dinner.

What’s something you’ve learned working at the archives that you’ll take forward into your future career?

I have gotten so much hands-on archival experience from this job, which is invaluable in learning the realities of working in archives and special collections. But more than that, I have learned the value of working with people I can look up to and learn from and enjoy being around.

What’s next for you?

I will be staying here at IU Libraries, as I am beginning a full-time position at the Lilly Library as a Teaching and Research Coordinator!

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