Archives Student Highlight
February/March 2015: Stewart Van Cleve
Stewart Van Cleve: I’m from Starkville, Mississippi originally, but I’ve lived in Minneapolis for almost 20 years, with two years in Portland. I got a B.S. in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota (2009) and a Master of Urban Studies from Portland State University (2013) in Oregon. I’m graduating from St. Kate’s this December.
St. Kate’s SAA: Where do you work?
Stewart: I currently work for Metro Transit’s Rail Division, which is responsible for operating and maintaining the light rail transit system.
St. Kate’s SAA: What is the title of your job?
Stewart: Library Science Intern.
St. Kate’s SAA: What are your duties?
Stewart: At first, I was tasked with cleaning up thousands of architectural drawings, product manuals, and maintenance reports. When I first started, the materials were in piles on the floor in a room that had been designated the “library.” I soon discovered that all of the documents were available electronically, and little of the printed material had any value to employees, who are primarily engineers. The paper copies were only being kept for historic purposes.
After some pretty intense weeding, I have archived most of the material using a customized filing system, and I’m now focused on organizing the electronic documents using an ECMS called Application Xtender, as well as creating a comprehensive records management program for the organization. The task is pretty immense--there are about 120,000 documents kept in the department I work for alone--so appraisal and project management are pretty key to the job.
St. Kate’s SAA: Best part of job?
Stewart: I’ve learned a lot about trains and engineering, something I never imagined that I would ever have exposure to. I’m happy that I can help the organization become more efficient and organized.
I also get free rides on all of Metro Transit’s services; as an avid transit user, that’s a big deal!
St. Kate’s SAA: Most memorable moment/artifact?
Stewart: I’m in the process of migrating files to our ECMS, and I keep discovering bizarre documents and subfolders that were created by folks who didn’t understand the public nature of the drive.
One document that I found was just called “Questions for Endocrinologist” and it was at least ten years old. I definitely deleted that one.
St. Kate’s SAA: How did you get the job?
Stewart: I heard about it from someone else in the program, who heard about it from the MLIS Blog.
St. Kate’s SAA: Any other fun tidbits
I’m the author of Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), and I recently published a case study with Kyle Parsons at the Minnesota Historical Society about a summer history program that connected high school students to LGBTQ History in Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites (ed. Susan Ferentinos, Rowman and Littlefield, 2014).
I also recently broke my glasses indulging in karaoke, one of my not-so-secret nocturnal pastimes. I think I was singing “Tell Him” by the Exciters at the time.
St. Kate’s SAA: Most memorable class so far at St. Kate’s?
Stewart: I definitely loved Molly Hazelton’s Project Management course, where we got to work with the amazing audiotape collection at the Walker. I’m equally excited for the Advanced Archives class, where we are working in the Clocktower Archives in Minneapolis City Hall. I discovered it when I was doing research for 10,000 Loves back in 2010; it’s an amazing space!
St. Kate’s SAA: Any job related or general advice for students/recent grads at St. Kate’s?
Stewart: Don’t be afraid of risks or rejection. Whenever you apply yourself to a job, a grant, or a fellowship, you are putting your name and your work out there, and influential people will see it and remember you. I’ve been rejected more times than I can count, but each application helped me build a name for myself.
I have also found that a good portion of getting a job, and keeping it, is being a good person to work with. When people are thinking of hiring you, part of the question they’re secretly asking themselves is: “Will I be able to stand this person for forty hours a week?”
September/October 2014: Allison Spies
Name/Hometown/Grad year- all that intro stuff
Name: Allison Spies
Hometown: Iowa City, IA
Graduation Year: anticipated 2015
Where do you work?
The Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis
What is the title of your job?
Archives & Records Assistant
What are your duties?
At the Archdiocese, the archives and records management offices are merged, so I split my time between current records tasks (filing, pulling personnel files and tracking down documents for the Chancellors, working on records retention schedules and updating databases) and conducting research in the archives for genealogists and historians. The archives are not currently open to the public, so I act as kind of a liaison between our collection and the outside world. We also have a tiny glass case in our building for which I get to assemble little displays of collection highlights.
The Archdiocesan archives document the history and activities of the Roman Catholic Church in this region of Minnesota, starting with the arrival of the first French mission priests around 1840. Much of our collection is made up of the bishops’ correspondence, (including the papers of the first Archbishop, John Ireland), files on the hundreds of priests and religious who have served here, maps, photographs, artifacts and publications of their work. We also maintain copies of the sacramental registers that record all Catholic baptisms, marriages and burials in the parishes. In addition to the historical part of the collection, we also house the more recent institutional records of lasting value.
Best part of job?
The best part of my job is that it satisfies so many of my diverse interests in one role. I get to work heavily with the data and information organization side of things that I enjoy, but I also am immersed in history and get some hands-on preservation experience. This is the first time my undergraduate studies in French and medieval history have seemed practical.
I love that I make fascinating discoveries every day. Genealogists that I work with are incredibly kind and grateful (I have received flowers, chocolates and friendly visits). Even though I am not Catholic, I find it interesting and inspiring that there is a spiritual element in my work environment. There is also very often free food left over from gatherings of the priests or when the sisters simply feel like bringing over dessert.
Most memorable moment/artifact?
Very early on in my work I had stumbled upon a copy of a letter from Abraham Lincoln appointing one of the early bishops to the Bureau of Indian Affairs with an attached note that the original had been removed to “Secure Storage” years ago. Problem was, it was so long ago that the location of that “Secure Storage” wasn’t known.
Months later I was digging around for something completely unrelated. There was an unmarked box near me, and the light was shining just right so I could see through the handle in the side. I had been working with our materials long enough that I immediately recognized the handwriting of Teddy Roosevelt on the document on top. I brought the box out and in it found several letters from Roosevelt, the original Lincoln letter, and many other invaluable documents that had been separated from various parts of the collection. It was a thrilling kind of Howard Carter opening-the-tomb moment for me. The box is now labeled, the contents cataloged and moved to a proper vault.
Other favorites include a mid-19th century cilice (a spiked metal penance device that one of the vicars wore wrapped around his thigh), a hand-carved prosthetic foot that belonged to a priest who endured an unbelievable series of gory misfortunes, a poignant list of the arrivals and departures of orphan children written in a rural ledger under the headings of produce, grains and other farm implements, a previously uncataloged early 18th-century book of sacred music, and a heart-wrenchingly poetic petition letter from the Winnebago tribe to close the government school so their children can learn the values of their own culture.
How did you get the job?
When I first started the St. Kate’s program, I was monitoring the MLIS blog pretty much every day. They posted a call for a volunteer to help with genealogy research requests; I answered. I worked for a few hours each week for about a year and a half, until one day I walked in and was offered a paid position to stick around.
Any other fun tidbits
In the course of my work so far I have been asked about ghostly apparitions, received a gift card from a former director of the FBI, and had a cabinet full of microfilm fall on me. That latter incident best describes my future, I think…
At St. Kate's-
Most memorable class so far?
At this point, I’d say the Archival Digitization Project Management Topics class (LIS 7963). Our work planning a digitization project for the Walker Art Center was sometimes stressful and headache-inducing, but it was so rewarding to conclude with something that could be actually implemented, and an understanding of audio digitization that I probably couldn’t get any other way.
Job related or general advice for students/recent grads
This is probably something you will hear over and over again, but don’t be afraid to start at the ground level, and don’t shy away from intern experience just because it’s unpaid. Learn the ropes, make connections, and opportunities will quickly start to open up.