This post was authored by Megan Williams ’21, former Special Collections and University Archives student aide and current Technical Services Assistant.
In December of 2021, I completed my undergraduate career here at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) and had to leave behind my student aide position in Special Collections and University Archives. Graduating and having to leave this position behind was bittersweet because Simpson Library had become a home away from home and being a library student aide was a major highlight of my time here. As a result, I would like to share some of my thoughts on my experience working in Special Collections and University Archives.
My journey as a student aide for this department began in August of 2019 when I was a sophomore. During my first semester in this position, I was slowly introduced to the department. One of my first tasks was to conduct research on the bass drum from the Mary Washington College (MWC) “All-Girl Marching Band.” I thoroughly enjoyed this project because it was a forgotten artifact from the college’s history that was signed by Bing Crosby and some other major celebrities from the 1940s and 1950s. The major objective of this research was trying to determine when the bass drum was signed by these celebrities. At the time, I was unable to pinpoint a date for the Bing Crosby signature. However, last year Carolyn found a picture of Bing Crosby signing the drum. Based on the information associated with the picture, we have determined that he signed it in 1952 at either the Apple Harvest Festival in Charlottesville or the Winchester Apple Festival. For more information on the research I did in the fall of 2019 on this artifact, check out this blog post: “Marching Band Drum Returns Home to University Archives.”
Another project that I had the opportunity to work on during my first semester in this role was an exhibition entitled “A Few of Our Favorite Things.” In this exhibition, Carolyn had the staff pick out some of our favorite items from the collection. One of my favorite items that I chose for this exhibit was “This is Your… MWC Coloring Book”, created by Nancy Jill Slonim and Vi Olson in the 1960s. The reason I like this artifact stems from the fact that it is satirical. In addition to helping Carolyn create this exhibition, I had the pleasure of assisting her in the creation of the James Farmer artifact exhibit and the most recent exhibit, “Artifacts in the Archives.”
During my second semester and third semester in this position, I worked on some other small projects. However, unfortunately, during these semesters my in-person work was limited because of the global pandemic. However, I was able to continue my work with the department remotely. The project that I primarily worked on when I was remote was editing the items in the History 298 Michael Mello Collection website. Working on this website became one of my favorite activities because I was able to learn more about Omeka, an open-source content management company. Since I really enjoyed working on this project, it was one that Angie and Carolyn always had me go back to throughout my time in this department. In fact, one of my final projects that I did for the department involved me digitizing and uploading a new batch of files for students to work on. Having this exposure to this platform has been helpful because I have been able to put this experience into other internships and do similar projects. For more information about my work on the Mello Collection website, check out this blog post “Summer Reflections during COVID-19.”
Having this student aide position truly changed my life. If I did not have this position, I would not be pursuing my Master’s in Library and Information Science at Kent State University or have my current job. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that while I am no longer the student aide in Special Collections and University Archives, I have not left Simpson Library for good. In fact, during February of 2022, I started my first full-time job as the Technical Services Assistant for Simpson Library here at UMW!