Leigh Hilford is a Junior at the University of Texas at Austin. She is double majoring in Plan II and English. She works in the Public Affairs department of the Harry Ransom Center. She plans on writing her Plan II senior thesis on Virginia Woolf’s works Jacob’s Room and To the Lighthouse.
What does a work day look like for you?
Normally, I come in and might have emails to respond to, then I usually just work on a few different pieces that are in various stages of production: maybe researching one piece, editing another, developing social media language for another.
What projects are you working on or have you completed? Is there one you most enjoyed or are passionate about?
Currently, I’m interviewing one of the archivists about the Anne Jackson & Eli Wallach collections>. I’m also working on the undergraduate intern profiles. The completed project that I am most proud of actually ended up becoming two pieces. I interviewed Monte Monreal who is Retail Manager in the Ransom Center. We talked about some items that ended up in the Ransom Center gift shop during the Mexico Modern exhibit. I enjoyed doing the research for the interview then talking to him about the connections the items had to the exhibit and learning how they went about creating those items. I ended up publishing articles on a pin and postcard set that were available in the gift shop.
What skills have you gained or knowledge have you learned through this internship at the Harry Ransom Center?
I’d never interviewed people before and I found it was more difficult that people anticipate it being. I also figured out how to write for this specific audience and answer questions like ‘What level of knowledge do you assume? How do you approach that?’
What prior interactions had you had with the Ransom Center before working here?
I had a research apprenticeship with the English Department at UT. In that, I did research in the J. M. Coetzee collection. I also attended an undergrad early books workshop set up by Andi Gustavson, Head of Instructional Services, and Aaron Pratt, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts.
How is the work you do here important for the general public?
A lot of what we do is demystifying what actually happens at the Ransom Center. Talking to people in various positions highlights different aspects of what we do here; the different, interconnected functions we have that most people wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. Most people just know the Reading Room and each piece we put out tells about much more than that.
How have your interests and studies influenced your internship?
I had already done work in my apprenticeship with the Coetzee archive so when I realized two visiting scholars were also doing research in it, I prepared a series of questions to sit down with them and discuss. I was able bring in more outside research and knowledge and have a deeper discussion. I felt like I was able to showcase a part of the Ransom Center I knew well.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve seen at the Ransom Center?
The puppet collection, definitely. They were just so strange and it was bizarre to see them all hung up. I wouldn’t have thought they’d be stored like that. Just to know it is here is an odd thing.
Who were you most excited to interview?
I talked to Ancelyn Krivak, Librarian, Archives Cataloging, about the Mad Men archive. It was really interesting to learn about how she processed it, as well as individual pieces that were really cool within the collection.
What event was most interesting to you?
I was really interested in one event. The Mexico Modern exhibit going on and with that the Ransom Center put on screenings of Mexican movies. Before the screenings, I interviewed Dr. Ramirez Berg, who works at the University of Texas and has written a book about Latino images in film. In that Q&A, I enjoyed learning about the films and asking questions built out of my own interests. Learning about the films that way and from that source was amazing.
Top photo: Leigh Hilford, left, with her undergraduate intern cohort.