Friday, August 27, 2010

Research 2.0

This post launches another series, Research 2.0, which will address traditional and emerging ideas and practices related to research in the digital age.  

One of the greatest frustrations I encountered as a genealogical researcher twenty years ago concerned access to vital statistics and other records. Travel outside of my locale was not only difficult, but not an option. Later, as a graduate student, most of my research involved reviewing records on microfilm and requesting books through interlibrary loan. Now technological advances allow researchers to access resources online, sometimes from the comfort of home. Times have changed.

During the summer of 2010, I participated in an Advanced Archives Practicum hosted by the Auburn Avenue Research Library for the University of West Georgia. In addition to assisting with processing the James Bryant Smith Collection, I conducted research for entries on Drs. Eliza A. Grier and Henry Rutherford Butler that will be submitted to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Whether you are tracing your family’s history or conducting research, the availability of online digital collections and databases opens doorways to information that once seemed difficult to find and was time consuming to research.

The life of Dr. Eliza A. Grier provides one example. Grier was the first African American woman to receive a license to practice medicine in Georgia in 1897, following her graduation from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University College of Medicine) that year. News of her licensure traveled as far west as Utah and as far north as New York. Grier’s career as a doctor of obstetric and gynecological medicine ended abruptly, however, when she fell ill in 1901 and later died in 1902. All of this information I found with ease in online databases of historic newspapers and through digital collections. (Pictured left is a graduation program from Fisk University, where Grier graduated in 1891. She later attend the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Courtesy of AARL.)

Another example is that of Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler, Sr, who practiced general and pediatric medicine in Atlanta in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of the first African Americans to receive a medical license in Georgia, Butler and a former classmate, Dr. Thomas Heathe Slater, owned and operated the Butler and Slater Drug Store, the first pharmacy in Atlanta that catered to African Americans. Additionally, Butler served as a Grand Master of the Prince Hall Affiliation of Masons for the State of Georgia. Again, this brief biographical sketch was obtained from information found in online databases and collections and in a relatively short amount of time.  (Pictured right is a Father's Day card given to Butler from his son, Henry Rutherford Butler, Jr, in 1927. Courtesy of AARL.)

For researchers, times have truly changed – and for the better.

Posted by Sarah Middlemast, University of West Georgia

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ostriches + summer interns, part 2

What’s the connection between South African ostriches and summer interns? For the purpose of this post, it’s Krystal Appiah (pictured above), a Brown University graduate student and former summer intern in the Archives Division at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Had she been here last week when Anita Martin, Library Associate, inventoried issues of the Penny Magazine from a recent acquisition, Appiah would have delighted in the mid 19th century publication of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, a London-based organization, and would have written an engaging, well-researched post about the aim of the publication, its intended readership, and the racialized political economy of British colonization and its affects on Africa. Alas, Appiah completed the internship and returned to Providence, Rhode Island.

That post is forthcoming, but for now Appiah’s departure offers an opportunity to reflect on the benefits of internships to interns, host institutions, and beyond. In Archival Internships: A Guide for Faculty, Supervisors, and Students – one of the few resources on the subject – authors Jeannette A. Bastian and Donna Webber write that internships have the potential to be “transformative, revelatory, and life expanding” (p. 20). While Archival Internships is written from the perspective of academic institutions, much of it can be tailored to government, corporate, and non-profit settings. Done well, internship programs can go far beyond course requirements or attractive resume add-ons for interns and, conversely, a simple means to get the tedious and mundane completed for host sites.

As a public research library specializing in the use and preservation of unique materials related to African and African American culture and history, AARL’s “public” varies in myriad ways as does the backgrounds and parent institutions of its interns. For the past two years, AARL has partnered with the International Rescue Committee’s Youth Futures Internship Program, working with Clarkston High School (Decatur, GA) students, some of whom are originally from Burma, Mexico, and Nepal. We host interns from the Georgia Archives Institute, as well as students from several Atlanta metropolitan colleges and universities, including Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Morehouse College, and more. This summer, we welcomed our first out of state intern, Krystal Appiah, who literally transformed the Archives Division, giving it a welcomed “social media make-over.” That wasn’t the only change for the better.

Appiah made the very most of her time, attending library programs, assisting staff in other divisions with professional projects, visiting archivists at neighboring institutions, working with the Georgia Humanities Council, and, as a result of her post on Mary Parks Washington, catching the attention of the executive director of the African American National Biography, who asked that she submit an entry on Washington. Framed another way, that’s one intern, one university, a public research library, a state humanities council, and a publisher brought together over a relatively short amount of time through one arrangement that, at a very basic level, is designed to provide one party with a little hands-on experience and the other a free (or almost free) set of hands to work on day-to-day activities.

Archival internship programs, then, are and can be so much more. They can foster inter-institutional relationships, encourage interdisciplinary dialogues, and facilitate transnational cultural awareness and understanding. In so doing, they can create the conditions for the life expanding, the revelatory, and the transformative noted by Bastian and Webber.

Returning to the Penny Magazine, isn’t that the purpose of useful knowledge?

Works Cited:
Bastian, Jeannette A. and Donna Webber. Archival Internships: A Guide for Faculty, Supervisors, and Students. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2008.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Friday, August 13, 2010

South African ostriches + summer interns

If you are wondering what South African ostriches and summer interns have to do with one another, good. We have your attention. However, we will not share that information until next week, when certain individuals return from the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), held this year in Washington, DC. Packed with dynamic and informative guest speakers, panels, sessions, presentations, and more, "ARCHIVES*RECORDS" is being held as a joint meeting of the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and SAA. To our colleagues from the Society of Georgia Archivists who are presenting, we wish you good luck!

Posted by Kerrie Cotten Williams, Archivist, and Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate