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.
Role at the IU Archives: Matt is a graduate archives assistant at the IU Archives which includes basic tasks such as processing collections, assisting with reference questions, and working at the front desk. Matt says that it feels like he’s expanded upon that considerably, as he has also assisted in instructional sessions, curated an exhibit, encoded finding aids, and digitized photos.
Educational Background: Matt has a Bachelor’s degree in History from Purdue University. Admittedly, Matt thinks that it felt a little weird coming to I.U. after growing up in Boiler Nation all his life, but he has enjoyed being here. He graduates this month with an M.L.S. with a specialization in Archives and Records Management from Indiana University.
Previous experience: While an undergraduate at Purdue, Matt worked at the student newspaper, The Exponent, and became editor-in-chief during his last semester. Before that, he worked in catering.
What attracted him to work at the IU Archives: During undergrad, Matt took a course where students had to research a collection in Purdue’s archives and then write a 25-page paper. It was an amazing experience and started his fascination with archival collections. When he applied to I.U. for graduate school, he knew right away that he wanted to specialize in archives, and he figured working at IU Archives would make the most sense for what he wanted to do.
Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives: Honestly that’s hard to say. Anything baseball related is always going to catch Matt’s attention, and the same goes for material related to World War II. He would say that the collection he finds particularly interesting is the Pauline Montgomery collection of tombstone photos. She traveled throughout southern Indiana photographing tombstones and making notes about their designs, years, inscriptions, and locations. The photos are fascinating to go through, and Matt is hoping as part of a class project to create an map showing the different locations she photographed.
Current project: Before the library shutdown, Matt was working on a few different projects. He was wrapping up work on a collection of scrapbooks originally put together for Robert Shaffer, who was Dean of Students in the 1950s-1960s. He and his wife traveled all across the world; Matt counted almost 60 different countries. Matt was also encoding some finding aids for collections and putting the finishing touches on an exhibit. Now that he’s working remotely, he is working on entering metadata elements into digitized recordings of lectures as part of the IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI) and going over letter transcriptions.
Favorite experience working at the IU Archives: Matt says that it was leading an instruction session with undergrads for the first time. Matt assisted our education archivist, Carrie Schwier, with setting up a session for a Baseball as History class. He created his own lesson plan to show students how photos can be used as primary sources. While indulging in his love of baseball was certainly a highlight, it’s a favorite because it reminded him of when he was an undergrad learning how to use primary sources, and it felt like he was able to come full circle.
What is something you’ve learned by working with the IU Archives: Processing and instruction are definitely two big things Matt has learned at IU Archives, but he is more impressed with how the Archives are so interconnected with campus. When he worked for the newspaper, he quickly realized how important it is to develop relationships with sources to get content into the paper and deliver it to readers. Matt feels the Archives is similar, it is a result of relationships and collaboration that the IU Archives is able to provide access and preserve such a large collection for researchers and to support a wide range of classes.