Category Archives: General

New Beginnings

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When it comes to career opportunities, January has often been a month of exciting transitions for me.  In I995, I returned in January to my alma mater to work in the Reference Department at Simpson Library, and later in 2003, again in January, accepted a new position in Special Collections & University Archives. For almost two decades, I’ve had the privilege to work with students, faculty and colleagues on many interesting projects that showcase and make accessible the Library’s unique collections. Much of that work I have shared here with you in our Departmental blog.

As January of this year approached so did a new opportunity—the position of Interim University Librarian. With the recent retirement of former director, Rosemary Arneson, came the offer to lead the Library and its staff in our mission to provide excellent service and resources to the UMW community. Angie Kemp, who many of you know from her postings here and work on digital projects, has been appointed the new Interim Head of Special Collections & University Archives. You will hear more from Angie, as she takes on the leadership of the Department.

I am grateful for the time I spent in Special Collections & University Archives and look back with pride at how much the Department has grown and evolved, providing more access, instruction, mentoring, outreach, preservation, and services.

Select highlights include:

Expansion of our digital presence from a single collection of photographs created during the 2008 Centennial Celebration

Logo for Archives@UMWto our current digital presence which spans content across three repositories:

Graphic oof digital collections page Initiating the Special Collections & University Archives Internship program:

Lauren Holt photographing collections

Intern Lauren Holt photographing collections, Spring 2013

Numerous exhibitions and preservation projects:

James Farmer Exhibit

James Farmer: In His Own Words, 1920-1999 Exhibit, 2020

Teaching the Historic Preservation Department’s Archives & Society class and collaborating  with faculty to engage students across the curriculum with our unique collections:

students in the archives class pose on steps at the Library of Virginia

HISP303 Archives & Society class field trip to the Library of Virginia, 2006

And best of all working with wonderful students, faculty, researchers, and colleagues!!!

Special Collections Team

Last year’s awesome Special Collections & University Archives team

As I embark on my new position, I look forward to still working with Special Collections & University Archives and fostering its continued development—partnering in this new chapter together!


January 31, 2022

100 Years Ago

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Welcome back to the start of another semester in These Unprecedented Times.  

Many of us are anxious, depressed, confused, angry, hurt, stressed, lonely, or all the above. We are all very tired. But amid so much pressing and constant uncertainty, sometimes hopeful conversations emerge. Folks talk about how to help, how to change, and how to move forward to something better. 

In the University Archives, we spend a lot of time looking back. Scholars, historians, and other researchers who use our collections tend to look at our place in a historical context. When I started thinking about this blog, I did the same; I looked back at our history. I wanted to take a look back at the way we moved forward once before.

An aerial view of campus as it appeared in 1928. Willard, Monroe, and Virginia Halls are visible, as are the construction sites for Lee and Chandler Halls. The letters "FSTC" appear in large letters on the lawn below Virginia Hall.
An aerial view of the early campus (Willard, Monroe, and Virginia Halls), with Lee Hall and Chandler Hall construction sites visible.

100 years ago, our country and the world found themselves emerging from the dual tragedies of a crippling World War and a different global pandemic. Our community likely had to grapple with a new normal then, and had to determine how they would adapt to the change. While we here in 2021 think about what our future might look like, we can also take a moment to turn back and consider what we looked like emerging into the twenties of last century. 

It’s remarkable to see the differences, and yet still notice how some things stay so familiar. 

A woman sits alone in a double-occupancy dorm room, backlit by the windows behind her.
A student sits alone in her dorm room in either Willard or Virginia Hall, 1920.

A student alone in her room in 1920 strikes a recognizable pose for those of us here on the other side of 2020. We’re continuing to distance to keep each other safe, which means a lot of alone time for many of us. Depending on your situation, however, time alone might be a luxury.

About thirty students engage in unspecified physical activities on an athletic field, circa 1925.
Players gonna play! Students hit the athletic field, 1925.

Whether distancing alone or safely with family or “pods,” many of our students today stay active as a means of managing stress and finding some fun. Group sports might be a little complicated these days, but Mary Washington students have always found joy in play, whether it’s wearing a mask to work out in the Fitness Center, attending a group fitness class over Zoom, or donning a full calf-length dress for a basketball game. 

Group photo of the 1925 basketball team, dressed in matching scarves and long dresses.
The 1925 Women’s Basketball Team.

Those of us on campus in Fredericksburg might see some shades of the familiar in the photo below. Campus might have fewer Model-T Fords driving by these days, but the steps of Monroe Hall coated in snow is a sight you could see right now. However, now that we’ve adapted so well to virtual learning and working environments, the traditional snow day might be a thing of the past!

A 1920s exterior view of the Monroe Hall portico covered in snow as four women gather on the steps.
No snow days for these students either! Students stand on a snowy Monroe Hall portico.

Campus today is blanketed with snow but few students. But if you happen to be here, and you should find yourself considering picking up a sled and hitting Trench Hill between remote learning sessions and Zoom meetings, remember that your mask doubles as a face-warmer!

If you’ve been on campus recently, in addition to the recent snowfall, you may have also noticed a few changes around Virginia Hall. Mary Washington’s second-oldest residence hall is undergoing renovation to modernize the facilities for our residential students while preserving the architectural legacy of the building.  

Students in the 1920s sit grouped around tables in the library.
Students gather around tables to study in the library when it was contained in Virginia Hall, 1923.

Virginia Hall has been an adaptable building since its first phase of construction in 1914. As shown in the image above, it once housed the library. We’re looking forward to seeing the newest iteration of Virginia Hall and all it can offer to a new generation of students when it reopens in the near future.

100 years from now, I wonder what we will see. What changes are we making in our community today that will make an impact for tomorrow?

All images courtesy of The Centennial Image Collection, University of Mary Washington Special Collections and University Archives.

February 3, 2021

The Digital Archiving Lab: Fall 2020

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The fall semester is just around the corner and Special Collections & University Archives staff have been busy working on plans to safely welcome you back to the Digital Archiving Lab (DAL). While these plans are subject to change in accordance with campus policies, you can always stay up-to-date on our operating status by visiting our departmental webpage, or simply reach out to us via email or phone (540-654-1756). Although appointments and consultations will look different this year, staff are still available to help you with your projects through a variety of methods.

Photograph of the Digital Archiving Lab, showing a room with computers, flatbed scanners, a large book scanner, and a large wall-mounted monitor.
Equipment in the Digital Archiving Lab will be available by appointment this fall.

The DAL will continue to offer a variety of hardware and software to help you complete digitization projects. Available equipment includes two flatbed scanners for the high-resolution digitization of documents, prints, and film, as well as an overhead rare book scanner for fragile, bound materials. The full Adobe Creative Cloud suite is available on multiple computers (Mac and Windows) in the DAL, providing access to software like Photoshop, Acrobat DC, and Premiere Pro.  


In an effort to provide as safe a workspace as possible, we have implemented several new procedures for using the DAL this year:

  • Beginning August 24th, the DAL will be open to UMW faculty, staff, and students by appointment only. Drop-in open hours will not be available this fall.
  • Adherence to UMW’s COVID-19 Face Coverings/Masks Policy is required.
  • Only one person may be in the DAL at a time, unless assistance from library staff is needed.
  • Before your first appointment, completion of a brief orientation is required.  
  • When possible, staff will provide training on software and equipment virtually. If needed, in-person training will be provided at a safe social distance in the DAL.
  • There will be disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer available in the lab at all times.
  • A key is still required for access to the lab. The key will be sanitized each time it is returned to the Circulation desk in Simpson Library.

Orientation and/or training videos will be provided as needed once an appointment is scheduled. You can book your appointment with the Digital Resources Librarian online, or by sending an email. As always, please let us know if you have any questions!

July 30, 2020

Black Lives in UMW Archives

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UMW Special Collections and University Archives stands behind our Black students, colleagues, and community members. Black lives matter today, yesterday, and always. 

Six Black students hold candles during the opening ritual of Black Culture Week

Opening ceremony of Black Culture Week, 1976.

We believe in the statements set forth by the Board of Visitors’ Resolution on George Floyd and Systemic Racism, committing sincerely to “rooting out any practice within our community that stems from implicit bias, systemic racism or is contrary to our Statement of Values.” 

We echo the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Council Statement on Black Lives and Archives, acknowledging that “as archivists, we are not neutral in matters of social justice and politics.”  

Black student in her dorm room with a Black Panthers poster hanging on the wall behind her.

Wanda Gail Williams poses in her dorm room, April, 1972.

As the institutional archive, our mission is to collect and preserve the history of the University of Mary Washington. 

We need to do this better. 

We have a responsibility to be actively anti-racist in our professional practices and standards. We have an obligation to tell the full story of our institution and to raise up the voices previously unheard. We have a desire to build stronger partnerships within our UMW community to earn the position of a trusted repository for all who participate in our university’s rich narrative. 

We plan to examine our descriptive practices and collecting policies to actively identify and dismantle white supremacist language and assumptions. We promise to continue working to promote the archives as a safe and open place for everyone, and to do our best to ensure the broadest possible accessibility of our collections while holding ourselves accountable to the highest ethical standards. 

We encourage our students to live James Farmer’s words, carved in stone here on our campus. 

Carving of a quote by James Farmer set in a brick wall. Quote reads, "Freedom and equality are inherent rights in the United States. Therefore, I encourage young people to take on the task by standing up and speaking out on behalf of people denied those rights. We have not finished the job of making our country whole."

A James Farmer quote on the UMW campus encourages speaking out against injustice. Photo credit: Sarah Appleby.

“Freedom and equality are inherent rights in the United States. Therefore, I encourage young people to take on the task by standing up and speaking out on behalf of people denied those rights. We have not finished the job of making our country whole.”

We want to continue to take the time to learn, listen, and have important conversations. We are here to support our community.

If you’re a member of the UMW community that has participated in the protest movement and you have questions about preservation or ethical archiving of protest materials, please feel free to contact us at While the library works to reopen safely during the ongoing pandemic, staff remains available to offer help remotely. 

June 30, 2020

Navigating our Digital Collections

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As Special Collections & University Archives staff enter the 12th week of working remotely during this global pandemic, I wanted to aggregate and share the digital repositories and collections that you can explore online to gain access to our many unique materials. With so much available content, it can often be confusing deciding where to begin your search.

Frequently when I get a research question, I start by going to this listing of our digital collections. You can use this page as a portal to access our more specific digitized collections. For instance, if your question is related to the earlier history of the University, start with a search in Eagle Explorer, an interactive full-text search tool of many of the University’s publications. You can discover student newspaper articles as well as yearbooks and academic catalogs through the years.

Front page of The Bullet, Student newspaper), October 23, 1942

The Bullet, October 23, 1942

Much of UMW’s recent history is now published online and can be found by searching through UMW’s Web Archives. For the last six years, the SC&UA Department has been archiving the University’s online content in accordance with our mission to preserve UMW’s history. This includes the University’s main website, athletics sites, social media accounts and more.

Screenshot of the UMW News web page from May 15, 2020

Screenshot of the UMW News page from May 15, 2020.

If you are looking for specific digitized collections, like the James L. Farmer Collection  or UMW Blogs, or are searching for oral histories and extensive visual materials, our Digital Collections repository is the stop.

Women in purple and white costumesdance at an early Multicultural Fair.

Dancing performance at an early Multicultural Fair.

Curious about the latest student and faculty scholarship? Check out  Eagle Scholar. This repository is home to over 2,500 creative and scholarly open-access works by the UMW community. Quick links are provided to the most downloaded items in the collection as well as to recent additions. Eagle Scholar is also the repository for UMW’s 5,000+ herbarium collection. A wonderful collection of digitized specimens to peruse during your days inside.

A specimen of ground cedar.

A specimen of ground cedar from 1974.

Finally an oft-overlooked resource and one of my favorites, our Online Exhibits and Projects site which includes Artifacts in the University Archives, as well as various thematic exhibits created from our collection materials.

Lots of online sources to navigate and explore!  If there are resources you need to access that are not available here, contact us at 540-654-1752 or email The SC&UA team is continuing to work remotely and here to assist you. We also have an Accessing Special Collections & University Archives Materials During the COVID-19 Pandemic guide detailing collection access during this period.

We miss seeing everyone in the Research Room. Stay healthy and stay safe!

May 31, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

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Written by  Caitlin DeMarco, Library Assistant

Many people come to Special Collections & University Archives (SC&UA) with questions of all shapes and sizes. Over the years, we have begun noticing that some questions come up more than others. So I would like to answer some of our Frequently Asked Questions! 

Can I look through things in the Special Collections & University Archives room? 

You absolutely can! Check out the hours we are open here. You can also call or email us to set up a longer research appointment. The usage rules are a little different from the rest of the library, because of the value, uniqueness, and condition of some of the items in the collection – for example, a member of the library staff will bring your requested item to you at the research table. 


Where are the undergraduate departmental honors papers? 

While we have many bound honors papers in SC&UA, you can find most post-2008 papers online at Eagle Scholar! Eagle Scholar is the library’s digital repository, holding both faculty and student research projects. You can locate undergraduate and graduate student research projects here.  

A few of the bound undergraduate honors papers held at SC&UA.

A few of the bound undergraduate honors papers held at SC&UA.

When did Mary Washington become coed? 
While a small number of men attended Mary Washington previously (particularly right after WWII), Mary Washington College for a time was considered the female campus integrated with the University of Virginia. In September 1969, the U.S. District Court outlawed gender discrimination in admissions policy at both schools. Mary Washington College officially became coeducational with the enrollment of 22 male transfer students in the 1970-1971 school year. The first male students graduated in 1972.

Do we have to wear white gloves to handle things? 
Usually not! Though you may see them on TV, white gloves can cause small amounts of damage to paper and other materials. We ask that you diligently wash your hands with soap and water, and dry them well, before coming to Special Collections to handle something. The only time you may be asked to wear gloves is when handling photographs or metal objects (which are more susceptible to the oils on your hands).

Photograph of a gloved hand holding a Devil-Goat Day devil pin.

This metal Devil pin needs careful handling!

Do you have [insert object here]? 
We may have it, but your first place to check is our search box at You can also check the links to the right side of that page. If you need help, you can email or call us using the information in the ‘Contact Us’ box.

What is the coolest thing you have in the collection? 
It’s impossible to choose! We have beanie hats, DevilGoat Day memorabilia, the James Joyce collection, and student newspapers and yearbooks…there are too many things to choose from! You will just have to drop by Special Collections and University Archives to see if you can find your coolest thing.

Photo of a brown leather-bound 1610 chained book.

One of the many cool things in SC&UA – a 1610 chained book!

December 10, 2019

American Archives Month

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Written by Carolyn Parsons, Head of Special Collections & University Archives

October is American Archives Month! Since 2006, archivists have used this month as a time to make our collections more visible and share the work we do. The Society of American Archivists (SAA)’s theme for Archives Month this year is the Power of Collaboration. A celebration of how people with different knowledge and skills come together to create solutions for preserving and making accessible our collections in all their various formats.

In celebration, Virginia archival repositories partnered to create a Virginia Archives Month poster to raise collection awareness.  The Virginia poster theme this year is: The Letterpress, The Woodblock, and The Watermark: Book Arts in Archives and Special Collections.

Virginia Archives Month poster, 2019

The Virginia chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) is also again sponsoring the annual REMIX contest. Directions are listed below, and the prizes range from a $100.00 pre-paid VISA gift card to assorted Virginia archives swag. You can also pick up the contest guidelines at Simpson Library. Plus, there are bragging rights, if you win the People’s Choice Award! All entries are judged on the creativity and originality of the submission and the inclusion of a correct link to the source and contextual information. Entries are due October 31, 2019.

The archival images available to remix, as always, are fabulous, such as this colorful 1886 pencil drawing of a coal burner engine.

Macon and Brunswick Coal Burner, 1886. Image courtesy of the Norfolk Southern Corporation

The full collection of images to use for your contest creations are located in the 2019 Virginia Archives Month collection here on Flickr. Further contest specifics are answered on the REMIX site.

So join in the collaboration and celebration this October, as we remember the importance of our archival collections and the work of archivists to make materials of enduring value accessible and preserved for future generations.

October 16, 2019

Managing Your Personal Records

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It’s back-to-school season! Everyone is starting to settle back into the school-year routine around UMW, but before we all get too settled, I’d like to take a quick moment to bring your attention to something you may not think about too often: your personal records.

The French Club and their important personal records, 1962.

Sadly, if you’re a collector of vintage LPs, I’m not talking about those personal records. I’m talking about the various important documents and digital materials we all generate in the course of our lives. If you’re a college student (or if you were one once, or if you’ve ever lived away from your parents), these might be the kinds of items you have to call mom or dad to send you if you’re trying to get a job or an internship, or take out a loan. These might be things like a birth certificate or your social security card. Depending on your life circumstances, these might also include things like marriage certificates or adoption papers. These types of things—the legal documents that prove you’re you—are top tier important records. I’ll talk about how to handle these later.

Personal records also include things like tax returns, bills (medical, utilities, etc.), bank statements, and similar items. These materials—the documentation of a specific transaction—are also important to retain and protect. However, these types of records don’t need to be secured for a lifetime. You might also consider your personal email, social media accounts, resumes, and photographs as part of your personal records. Some of these things you may want to preserve for any number of reasons, and some of them you might consider getting rid of to free up some space in your desk or on your hard drive (after all, how deep is your sentimental attachment to your old electric bills?). You can dispose of some of these items routinely by applying a rough retention schedule.

As the Records Coordinator at UMW, I specialize in retention schedules. Retention schedules are guidelines that help establish how long it’s necessary to keep a particular item. Agencies in the Commonwealth of Virginia (like UMW) follow retention schedules set by the Library of Virginia that keep us in legal compliance with recordkeeping standards. These are relatively strict and vary by agency and type of record. For your personal records, it can be a bit looser, but it’s still helpful to stay organized for your own benefit.

Examples of things you can dispose of after one year include:

  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Utility bills

And after three years:

  • Tax returns (the IRS can audit you up to three years after you file a tax return, unless you seriously omitted more than 25% of your income in the past, and then it’s six years).
  • Medical bills

And those top tier important records I mentioned earlier? Secure those in a very safe place and keep them forever.

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive or exact list. Your mileage may vary, and you might decide to keep certain things for longer, or you might have records not described here. Resources for determining records and record-keeping strategies abound online, or you can always come see us in Special Collections and University Archives with your records questions.

Once you’ve determined that you have items that you don’t need any more, make sure you think about how to dispose of them properly. Files that have personally identifying information (PII) should be disposed of securely. Shred paper records with a cross-cut shredder, and use permanent deletion software for electronic records. “Delete” or emptying the trash can on your desktop doesn’t really get rid of that file. Heidi Eraser is a free tool that completely deletes files from your hard drive by overwriting several times, and can even be set up to operate on a schedule.

Securely shred your personal paper documents whenever possible, especially if they display personally identifying information like bank account or social security numbers.

For the things you want to keep, focus on organizing your most important files. The Council of State Archivists compiled a list for Electronic Records Day last year that offers several helpful steps for organizing and preserving your personal electronic records. Among these tips include techniques such as backing files up in multiple places, and giving your files descriptive filenames. Angie White, our Digital Resources Librarian, also blogged about useful strategies for keeping your files safe and organized in her Personal Digital Archiving post for this site. Digital materials are more fragile than some people realize, so it’s important to adopt smart preservation and retention tactics to keep your information safe over time.

Take care of your records and yourself this school year, and as always, please come see us in Special Collections and University Archives if you have any questions or just want to chat! As a reminder, the SC&UA reading room has open hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10-12 and 1:30-4. We’re located on the second floor of Simpson Library, Room 217, and anyone is welcome to stop by during those hours. You can also make an appointment to see us outside of those times by emailing or

September 3, 2019

What’s New? Records Management!

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UMW’s Records Management program has a new home here in Special Collections and University Archives! 

So, what does that mean? 

As an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia, UMW is required to follow the guidelines set forward by the Virginia Public Records Act. The Library of Virginia establishes retention and disposition schedules for different types of records based on their content, and agency records officers (like me!) help make sure our records are maintained by their standards and process the necessary forms. 

Essentially, our records management program assists records custodians across UMW with maintaining their records. This includes figuring out what we have and where we have it, where and how we should keep records, and what to do with the things we don’t need any more.  

That’s right—you can get rid of stuff! 

Lots of us have the “better safe than sorry” mentality when it comes to our records. It makes sense that we would want to keep all available documentation to prove something—like a purchase or an action—that we might be called on to justify years down the road. However, this isn’t always the case, and can sometimes even be a liability. While some records are permanently retained, many materials governed by state retention schedules can and should be destroyed at the expiration of the retention period. This might mean shredding, incinerating, permanent deletion, or some other method, depending on the nature of the record.  

At this point, you may be wondering: What is a recordGood question! 

The technical definition goes something like this: a record is recorded information documenting a transaction or activity by or with any agent of the commonwealth (if you work for UMW, you are an agent of the commonwealth). Regardless of physical form or characteristics, the information is a public record if it is produced, collected, received, or retained in connection with the transaction of public business. This generally means that the recorded information can be anything on paper, audio, video, or digital/electronic. If it’s part of state business, it’s a record! 

For further clarification, the LVA created a handy flowchart to help determine when a document is a public record.

We hope to have lots of new, helpful resources for our UMW community available soon as we work on building up our Records Management program, but there are several useful links throughout this blog if you’re curious to learn more. Check our Special Collections and University Archives website for any updates and announcements. You’re also always welcome to reach out to us at if you have any questions!

May 24, 2019

Digital Archiving Lab Intern, Spring 2019

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab Intern, Shaheen Fazel ’19.

In January of 2019, I began interning with the Digital Archiving Lab at Simpson Library. My background includes working and volunteering at public libraries and museums; however, I had absolutely no prior experience working with digital archives and collections. Simply being involved in this type of environment was incredibly educational.

My major is in Sociology, and I am minoring in Museum Studies. I pursued this internship in hopes that it would give me the experience of working in an archival setting. I was hoping to have an understanding of how a digital archive works. This internship has helped me decide that I am definitely planning on pursuing a Master’s in Library and Information Science, as I would like to become a librarian in the future. Working in the Digital Archiving Lab, I was able to experience different types of work that a digital archives and library deals with every day.

Some of my duties for this internship included digitizing and processing materials, specifically photographs from the UMW University Relations & Communications photo collection. I also had the responsibility of creating and writing descriptive metadata to go along with each of the photos. This eventually will be uploaded in the UMW Libraries’ Digital Collections for everyone to see. Scanning these photos was a great experience, as I had previously never dealt with handling items that have been significant to UMW’s history.

Before the semester ends, I will also have the opportunity to create my own exhibit! I will be able to freely pick the subject of my exhibition. Creating an online exhibit will allow me to understand what it is like to construct and display a public collection. However, the most interesting part of this internship so far is looking at every single photograph and the context behind it. Some of the pictures that stood out to me the most were group photos of students and/or alumni taken at special events, such as Homecoming and Reunion Weekend.  It’s amazing to see different generations of Mary Washington alumnae and students over the years. The photographs across the decades show how much the University has changed!

A photograph of about 23 alumni standing in front of a brick building for a group photo.

The class of 1942 gathers for a photo at the 1987 Mary Washington College Homecoming. UMW University Relations & Communications collection, Special Collections & University Archives.

Photograph of a large group of alumni sitting and standing close together for a group photo. They are in front of a tent on a large, grassy hill.

The class of 1977 gathers for a photo at the 1987 Mary Washington College Homecoming. UMW University Relations & Communications collection, Special Collections & University Archives.

Overall, I’ve learned so much about the programs and technology used for this internship. I’ve become more comfortable with Adobe Photoshop, as well as using Microsoft Excel. I was able to learn the archival practices in regard to digital preservation and organization! Due to my experiences interning for the Digital Archiving Lab, I feel as if I have developed skills and knowledge. This internship position has also further shaped my goals in terms of my future career as a librarian.

April 1, 2019