Behind the Curtain: Sara Stefani

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!

Sara Stefani, IU Archives Volunteer

Role: Sara is a volunteer at the IU Archives.  As part of her work, she assists the Director, Dina Kellams, with a variety tasks including: accessioning and processing new collections, assisting with reference questions, scanning and digitizing items, preparing exhibitions, and assisting with the very necessary and less “glamorous” things like filing. This has given Sara the opportunity to learn a little bit of everything that happens in the IU Archives.  Sara has also had the opportunity to work with and learn valuable information from other archives staff.  She has learned how to process born-digital items, create blog posts and exhibitions, and assist in managing records at the IU Warehouse.

Educational background:  Sara already has an advanced degree in Russian literature.  Currently, she is working to finish her Masters in Library Science with a specialization in Archives and Records Management.

Previous Experience   Prior to her work in the University Archives, Sara worked at a rare book library for three years.

What attracted her to IU Archives:   Sara began her M.L.S. with the intention of working in special collections libraries and took several classes held at the Lilly Library.  While taking the Manuscripts course taught by Erika Dowell, Sara realized that the idea of archival work was just as fascinating to her as working with special collections.  She then enrolled in a course taught by Phil Bantin, former director of the IU Archives.  Phil suggested that Sara look into volunteering at the IU Archives.  Sara says she has loved every minute of working in the IU Archives and is very glad that Phil made the suggestion.  She says: “The people who work at the IU Archives, both the permanent staff and the other students, are some of the most wonderful people I know.  I also really love the variety of tasks I get to do – I’m not just doing the same thing all the time, every day is different.  And I’ve learned a lot of really cool things about IU and handled some amazing materials.”

Members of the Hennel family, IU Archives image no. P0042977

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives:  Of the many collections held by the IU Archives, Sara says she’s a little bit in love with the Cecilia Hennel Hendricks Family Papers.  There’s so much in the collection that Sara has used it for several of the IU Archives pop-up exhibits.   There were three Hennel sisters who attended IU in the early twentieth century and later went on to become faculty.  After marrying in 1913, Cecilia moved to Wyoming with her husband to run a bee farm (how cool is that?!).  Upon the passing of her husband, she returned to IU to teach in the English Department. Cecilia’s sister Cora was the first person to receive a PhD in Mathematics from Indiana University.  The collection is full of Cecilia’s letters home describing all of the events in her life and the food she cooked.  It also contains items and information about beekeeping, local and international politics, mathematics, travel, IU life, and so much more.  There’s also correspondence from various family members which leaves you with an understanding of just how much they all loved each other.

Another collection Sara has found to be of great interest and has enjoyed working with is the Avis Tarrant Burke Papers.  Like the Hendricks Family Papers, this collection contains items from multiple individuals of the Burke Family, including love letters from each generation.

Current projects:   Currently, Sara is processing records from the Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Languages.  The Honors Program is host to intensive foreign language study that includes study abroad opportunities.  Since their inception in 1962, the program has expanded from three study abroad programs to twelve!  The program is specifically for Indiana high schools, and many students from the local schools participate.  The collection Sara is processing contains drawings and letters from students to host families, as well as photographs.  Sara goes on to say that: “It’s a really wonderful collection!  They all look so happy and it seems like an amazing experience!  I wish I’d had that opportunity when I was in high school!.”

Favorite experience in the IU Archives:    It had only been a few days since Sara had begun her volunteer work with the Archives when a new collection arrived from an office on campus.  While part of the collection had been neatly collected in boxes, the rest had been collected in three garbage bags!  The office had initially intended to throw the items away, but at the last minute decided to donate it on the chance that the Archives might want the items.   Sara was thus able to get hands-on experience of the disarray a collection can be in when it is received; an experience which is fairly common in archival work.  “I had read that sometimes things show up in an archive like that, and there I was actually experiencing it.”  Sara and Dina sorted through the bags together, with Sara taking the opportunity to ask questions about the kinds of things that should be kept.  “It was also a great opportunity to learn methods of appraisal.  Maybe I’m just weird, but I loved getting to go through those garbage bags!”

What she learned from working here:    “Honestly, everything that I know about IU I learned by working in the Archives!” says Sara.  Even though she’s been a member of the faculty here at Indiana University for nine years, she says that “…as a faculty member, I pretty much just stay in my own world of my classes and my department.  I’ve never really felt connected to the university as a whole, and I really had no sense of its history.”  She states that since starting her work at the IU Archives, she has really started to get a sense of Indiana University’s history.  Her work with the Cecilia Hennel Hendricks papers, as well as working with some of the other faculty papers have contributed to this understanding.  Assisting in answering reference questions has also taught Sara a lot.  “I learned that IU used to have an intensive summer program for business executives to help them succeed in their careers (see previous post about that here), and during the years of World War II they also had a naval training program on campus.  I’ve also learned a lot about the history of women on the campus.  I’ve been able to see a bigger history of the country and the world reflected in the history of IU.”

Behind the Curtain: Walker Byer

Photograph of IU Archives graduate student Walker Byer in front of bookcaseTitle: Processor

Education: Walker holds a B.A. in International Studies and Anthropology from the University of Southern Indiana (USI) and recently graduated from IU with an M.L.S. in Archives and Records Management.

Work History: Before working at the IU Archives, Walker was a bookseller at Bloomington’s local Half Price Books Outlet.  Even though this was his first job working in the profession, he has visited lots archives and rare book libraries in the past!

In what ways do you work with the IU Archives?:  As a processor, Walker’s work primarily focuses on arrangement and description of the collections at the Archives with a particular focus on folklore collections and related topics.  In addition to processing, Walker also helps to write the Behind the Curtain staff features of this blog; assist with reference questions; and monitor the archives reading room.  Walker also helped curate the recent exhibit Collecting Folklore: Generations of Indiana University’s Folklore Institute.

Favorite collection or item in the Archives?: Walker’s favorite items are student journals from the Folklore Student Papers.  These journals were an assignment in an introductory class taught by John McDowell.  The students kept a journal for the entire month of October to record their observations on the folklore of Halloween.  Walker notes that “I love to study the way that folklore makes up our every day lives, whether it’s small social customs or larger holiday celebrations.”

Current projects that relate to working with the Archives?:  Walker is currently processing the collection of Dr. Fabio Rojas, who teaches sociology at IUB.  In addition, Walker is also assisting in a digital adaptation of the exhibit mentioned above.

Favorite experience working with the Archives?:  Of his many experiences at the Archives, Walker’s favorite was the opportunity to co-curate an exhibit.  “It was rewarding to see the joy it brought to members of the Folklore department.  It was a fun learning experience and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”

What is something you’ve learned by working with the IU Archivists?:  Working with the IU Archives has provided many learning experiences for Walker.  In addition to learning skills for a future career in archives, Walker has enjoyed learning the folklore that permeates the IUB campus.

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.

Behind the Curtain: Anne Haines, Web Content Specialist

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. This week meet one of our AMAZING partners! 

Photograph of Anne Haines smiling behind the IU Libraries reference desk.
Anne Haines, IU Libraries, Web Content Specialist

Title: Anne is the Web Content Specialist in the Department of Discovery and User Experience (DUX) at the IU Libraries.

Education: Anne has a B.A. in English and an M.L.S. degree, both of which she received from IU Bloomington.

Work History: Before enrolling in library science coursework and joining the IU Libraries, Anne worked in the Registrar’s Office at IUB.

Working with the IU Archives:  Part of Anne’s job is the management of the WordPress platform which hosts the IU Libraries’ many blogs; one of which belongs to the Archives (which she thinks is “amazing!”).  In addition to working with the Archives, Anne works with other departments in the Libraries, to help them create and manage the content on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Favorite collection in the Archives: For Anne, every visit to the Archives reveals new and exciting things.  Despite this, she says that “anything related to Herman B Wells gets the heart-eyes emoji from me!”.  Additionally, she also finds the student scrapbooks amazing.

Current projects that relate to working with the Archives: No specific project really, just the ongoing work I previously mentioned.

Favorite experience working with the Archives: When asked about her favorite experience during her time working with the Archives, Anne said that she loved the time when Dina Kellams, Director of University Archives, uncovered the Story of Carrie Parker.  The social media and blog posts that covered the story received a great deal of attention.  The Herald-Times also took an interest in the discovery.  IU’s establishment of a scholarship in honor of Ms. Parker shows just how life-changing the telling of people’s stories can be.  “I didn’t have that much to do with all of this, other than to keep Dina apprised about how many visits the blog was getting, and helping to amplify the story on social media – but it was just too cool to watch it unfold.”

What is something you’ve learned by working with the IU Archivists: Anne only had one thing to say to this question: “Archivists are awesome!”

Behind the Curtain: Molly Wittenberg, Records Manager

Role: Molly is the Records Manager, a new role within the Archives and the University as a whole. Her primary role is to work with units across campus to help schedule the records they create, and help facilitate the disposition of records when they’re no longer active – whether that’s transferring them to the University Archives, or destroying them.

Educational Background: She earned her MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. She also has a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

How she got here: Prior to joining IU, Molly was working for the City of Berkeley in Berkeley, CA. They did not have an archives, but much of her work still focused on the identification and transfer of records and maintaining preservation and access.

Prior to starting graduate school, Molly was working for a small business where she worked with government offices to digitize their historical records. That position initiated her curiosity, and a course in records management in grad school solidified her interest in the field. She also grew up in southern Indiana, and IU was always an exciting place to visit. It’s a great place to come to work every day.

Favorite Collection in the IU Archives: Molly loves finding correspondence between individuals and offices on campus and the unique insight these records provide. They’re also a great reminder of the importance and value of capturing correspondence in the digital age.

Current Project: Molly is currently updating our website with available information related to records management services and resources for IU.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: One of her first – working with offices across campus to remove older, inactive physical records from the IU Warehouse. It was a hands-on introduction to a variety of the content created by IU. The experience provided an opportunity to discuss the importance of records management and transferring records to the Archives.

Ernest P. Bicknell (scanned from photograph album), 1922. Archives image no. P0047460

What she’s learned from working here: Quite a bit about alumni – most recently Ernest P. Bicknell and his role with the Red Cross during WWI. Contact the IU Archives to see the Ernest P. Bicknell papers.