Behind the Curtain: Duncan King – Student Assistant, Digitization Projects

Duncan King, Undergraduate in the College of Arts and Sciences

What is your role in the IU Archives?
Duncan assists in the extensive task of digitizing items that are part of the University Archives collection.  These items vary from entire subject folders of important faculty and alumni papers to collections of documents on specific topics.  Duncan also helps with patron and researcher needs by scanning requested items, such as articles from old student publications, or the CV from a lecturer who visited IU nearly a century ago.  That’s pretty amazing when you think about it!

What is your educational background?
While many of the student workers at the Archives are MLS graduate students, it’s not unusual to have students from other backgrounds as employees. Duncan is currently an undergraduate just finishing his freshman year.  He is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Central Eurasian Studies (CEUS) and is working on his degree in Tibetan History and Culture. Next year he plans to continue his education closer to family in California.

What previous experience do you have in archives?
During high school, Duncan spent much of his time in the school’s darkroom and photo lab.  While poking around the library storage closet, he found a bag containing photo slides from the mid-seventies.  During his senior year, he undertook the task of scanning and uploading the slides so that they were accessible to alumni.  Many of the photos showed the racial conflict and unity that existed in Seattle’s inner-city high schools during that time period.  Duncan found joy in knowing that his work was helping to preserve the scenes captured in these long-forgotten images.

What attracted you to work in the IU Archives?
Duncan’s attraction to the Archives was inspired by the previously mentioned digitization project. “I’ve always had a love for history,” says Duncan, “so working in the archives was a perfect way to combine that interest with a newfound passion for preservation. Documents come with their own challenges and victories, and I’ve really enjoyed learning how to tackle a new medium.”

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives?
With the extensive number of items in possession of the IU Archives, it’s never easy to pick just one as a favorite, and Duncan agrees that this was a rather tough question to answer.  Nevertheless, he managed to decide on an item.  There exists in the collection a letter from the then Interim President Herman B Wells to Governor Paul V. McNutt (also the namesake of McNutt Residence Hall).  In this letter, Wells essentially states that he is uncertain of his ability to handle the presidency, and asks McNutt to relieve him of it. Duncan explains why he chose this item in the following statement: “I love this letter because it adds a very human dimension to the legend of Herman B Wells; knowing he had to overcome some adversity, that he had to work to win the love of the university he would spend the rest of his life at, makes me respect him even more.”

What project are you currently working on?
Duncan’s current project focuses on digitizing some of the papers of Kate H. Mueller, who served as the Dean of Women from 1937-1969.  These papers were created during her first few years of service, and show the history of a very different time at IU, and the restrictions regarding female students. “Many of the documents relate to privileges such as staying out past curfew (lights out at 11:00 for freshmen!), or the problem of fraternity men keeping everyone awake.”  Apparently, fraternity members would spend their nights serenading female students into the hours of the early morning.  “What’s most clear in the documents is how much Dean Mueller cared about the students she was responsible for, as she and President Wells worked together to help struggling students stay in school and make the grades they needed to remain enrolled.”  These documents certainly sound like they would be worth a read! To learn more about this collection, see the Dean of Women’s Office records!

Favorite experience in the IU Archives?
Every day opens Duncan to new experiences; each one his favorite.  “I know I’m going to learn something new about my university, and I have absolutely zero idea what that something might be!”

What is something you have learned about IU by working in the Archives?
The University Archives plays a crucial role in preserving the history of Indiana University.  There is something for everyone to learn at the Archives, whether the individual is staff, student, or a member of the community.  Student workers, in particular, learn many things about university history or practical knowledge of their studies.  What Duncan has learned has a very practical element.
“Honestly, I’ve been astounded at the amount of paper the University used to go through. Imagine every email, every short text or memo, or update on the progress of a project; not only did it need to be sent by paper, but a copy needed to be delivered to each recipient. The university still uses paper, don’t get me wrong, but we no longer need a sheet of paper just to acknowledge you received someone else’s sheet of paper that they sent you.”

Behind the Curtain: Naz Pantaloni

Naz Pantaloni, Head, Copyright Program, IU Libraries

Title and Role:  Naz is the Head of the Copyright Program for the Indiana University Libraries.  The Copyright Program exists to help both IU affiliates and researchers navigate the often murky waters of copyright law.  

Educational background:  Naz has a broad and varied educational background.  While he majored in psychology and biology as an undergraduate, he also took many courses in musicology, art history, literature, and language studies. At first, Naz was considering a career as a clinical psychologist but ended up going to law school at Temple University. Following law school, Naz went on to earn a master’s degree in information science from Drexel University. While working as a law librarian and library administrator in Philadelphia, he completed his Ph.D. in philosophy at Villanova University.

Work Experience: Before coming to Indiana University, Naz worked as a law librarian and library administrator at Temple, Princeton, Villanova, Rutgers, and Cornell Universities, as well as the University of Pennsylvania.  His first position with Indiana University was as Assistant Director for Copyright and Administration for the William and Gayle Cook Music Library in the Jacob’s School of Music.

Work with the IU Archives:  Naz’s work with the University Archives involves addressing legal issues that arise their ongoing efforts to digitize archival resources and make them accessible online.  This includes determining the copyright status of published and unpublished materials held by the University Archives, as well as the fair use of said materials for education or research purposes.

Oscar winners in “School of the Sky”, May 15,1948, Archives Image no. P0052037

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives:  Naz’s favorite items in the Archives are the recordings of the Indiana School of the Sky.  These programs, produced by the IU Department of Radio and Television from 1947 until the early 1960’s, consisted of 15-minute episodes for elementary and high school students.  The wide range of topics covered by these programs included science, music, civics, current events, and life skills for young adults, such as dating and applying for jobs.

Favorite experience working with the IU Archives:  Naz’s favorite experience with the IU Archives involved researching the documentation for the Indiana School of the Sky.  The University Archives houses many of the scripts for the programs, as well as contracts with writers, licenses for music used for soundtracks, and internal memos documenting the inception and development of the School of the Sky over more than a decade. He says that “Reading through those materials, kept in perfect order in the Archives, felt like travelling back in time and into the minds of the programs’ originators and the people who created them. It was utterly fascinating to see how people worked in the mid-20th century to provide educational programming to schools in Indiana and the Midwest using the then prevalent medium of radio.”

Current project that relates to working with the IU Archives:  Currently, Naz is working on the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative.  As part of a university-wide effort, the goal of this initiative is the digitization and preservation of Indiana University’s rich collections of time-based media and to make them as accessible as possible.

Learned by working with the IU Archives: In response to this question, Naz says: “Archivists are amazing! Their work requires a broad range of skills and knowledge, from technology to historiography, and law. They are detectives, historians, curators, and interpreters of the past and present. At IU, they are the keepers of a significant institutional memory, the importance of which is only becoming more apparent in light of the university’s bicentennial.”

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.