Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Archival Fieldwork for LIS 438

For many Simmons MLIS students, LIS 438: Introduction to Archival Theory & Practice is a natural next step forward after completing their core classes, especially if they’re thinking of going into the Archives concentration. As someone who is currently in the Design Your Own concentration, I wanted to take LIS 438 to see whether the Archives track is for me, and in any case was interested in how archival practices compared to library and special collections.

I was somewhat apprehensive of the field experience component of the class, even though I had been enjoying the concepts we’d been studying so far and I like to apply my learning in a hands-on way. I was worried that it would be more time than I was able to commit outside of class, and that I would be out of my depth in an environment where I didn’t know the people or the institution. However, halfway through the semester, field experience is my favorite part of my week.

Field experience host sites are assigned with the help of an online form that takes into account students’ location, their commuting options, and their availability. Since I live in Brighton and am able to regularly commute to the Fenway area for class and work, I was assigned to work in the MassArt Archives inventorying their unprocessed materials. I know, it sounds thrilling. But for me, and for you prospective MLIS students as well, it’s close to a perfect job. I get to dig through boxes of unsorted and largely untouched records, exhibition materials, faculty notes, and student artwork that date back to 1885. I handle and relocate these materials into acid-free folders and boxes, and try to find evidence of provenance (where the materials came from) and basic metadata (like the creator, date, and subject) to enter in the inventory and decide if I should move it to an existing folder. It may sound rote, especially the spreadsheet, but I really enjoy the puzzle of an unknown item. And if I do have a question, the archivist at MassArt has been extremely helpful in explaining archival policies and practices- I feel like I’ve learned so much about actually working in an archive. I’m not sure whether I’m planning on entering the Archives track, but I’m really grateful for the chance to connect with archival workers and the history of the archives themselves!