Archivists rarely dwell in a sense of finality, rather many archivists position their work as capturing – actively and interventionally – “representative” snapshots of life activities both past and present. We try to supplement the storied box of archival materials that arrives at an archive, with specific dialogue, interviews, or oral history of the persons involved in the creation of the records, so that we may one day tell the materials’ story with authenticity and reliability (to quote a well-known Luciana Duranti article I have the privilege now of teaching in my Appraisal class). Such an approach – one of connecting disparate threads of a story longer than your self – is the one I adopted as PASP Archivist from 2013-2016.
As a first-year PhD student at Texas’ iSchool, I brought a material interest in classical archaeology that could complement a core research agenda in archival studies, especially given the efforts of digital classics professionals at research libraries and archaeological data repositories. A timely conversation with Zach Fischer (MSIS ’13) at the iSchool Capstone event led to my meeting with Dr. Palaima and PASPians Will Bibee and Dygo Tosa (MA ’13) where we discussed preparing archival collections for access. It was a wonderful introduction to the singular resources PASP stewards for an internationally networked community of Aegean scholars. Soon my archival contributions at PASP, which I will describe, were propelling and sustaining my dissertation research and scholarly growth. I am honored to have been able to shape PASP into a world-class resource through archival work.
Jerry E. Ifie (1942-2004), a Classics scholar from Nigeria, was a Visiting Professor at Texas in 1996 and 1997, and PASP had a small collection of his papers. I started with his collection. Writing a biography of the records creator and describing the Ifie items at hierarchical archival levels allowed me to provide better context and awareness for researchers who might encounter the finding aid we contributed to the then-UTDR, now Texas ScholarWorks, in late 2014. I know that Professor Palaima has had undergraduate students interested in Nigeria use this material.
By then, I had also aided in the donation of an archival collection dealing with the undeciphered Minoan/Cretan Linear A script from linguist and textile historian Dr. Elizabeth Wayland Barber. Making a tangible connection between Dr. Barber and Lydia Neuman, then-TAM graduate student and currently head of exhibitions at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in the course of my work is still to me rewarding reminder of the rippling impact an archivist can have across disciplines and even across generations of scholars.
As PASP archivist, I assisted PASP Visiting Scholars Flavia Carraro (France), Carlos Varias García (Catalonia, Spain), and José Melena (Spain) with their research inquiries.
Closer to home, my participation in PASP’s epigraphy workshop offered to young visitors during Explore UT in spring 2015 and 2016 remains a highlight of my doctoral program.
Dr. Palaima, the Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professorship, and funding from the Department of Classics and the College of Liberal Arts supported me in activities like the 2014 Summer Course in Greek and Latin Epigraphy held at Ohio State University. I learned much there about archaeological collections management.
Now I integrate museum artifacts as much as I can in teaching archival studies, but meanwhile have returned to epigraphy through research and studying the information practices of scholars in the humanities. Research-wise, Texas helped me connect the field of Classics with archives, and continuing today the cuneiform collections in Austin, Columbia (both in the CDLI, the former thanks to my work with Dr. Adam Rabinowitz, Tiffany Montgomery, and Dr. John Huehnergard), and other museums with which I engage. I have deepened that kind of connection through epigraphical, archaeological curation, and provenance research projects.
PASP launched the informal Scripts Institute in Fall 2014. Dr. Kevin Pluta and I took the opportunity to present to colleagues across campus the early results of our RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) work with Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform tablets (primarily, but also squeezes and coins). Dr. Alex Walthall’s Digital Archaeology Lab and the UT Libraries’ photogrammetry equipment foster its continuation in exciting directions.
After acquiring the Barber collection, PASP also acquired the William C. Brice collection in 2014. I prepared a finding aid for the Brice Collection and another large collection in the Emmett L. Bennett, Jr. Offprints. These experiences gave me a lifelong toolkit of archival techniques and academic strategies that I continue to draw on regularly as an assistant professor.
I also gained a valuable set of insights by recruiting and interviewing candidates to succeed me as PASP Archivist in early 2016 – learning how to articulate needs and goals in forward-thinking and inclusive ways so as to retain support. Though she and I worked together for only a few months, the time management and multimodal communication skills I developed quickly proved their transferability as I began my work at University of Missouri, notably the ArCla (Archives of Classical Scholarship) collaboration during 2017.
Archivist Garrett Bruner has quickly transformed PASP’s archival operations into a systematic and multifaceted program, expanding particularly its interdisciplinary graduate training, metadata automation, and email preservation achievements.
We have a two-part article forthcoming in Archival Outlook, the magazine of the Society of American Archivists, detailing recent collections processed and ongoing digitization projects. I miss Dr. Palaima’s daily generosity and wise appreciation of the archival enterprise (to quote the esteemed archival educator and our mutual friend Dr. David Gracy), but am so gratified that great work continues with Garrett Bruner.
I have enjoyed talking with fellow Dylanologist on University of Missouri’s campus, Dr. Dennis Trout, about teaching and research and the opportunities we have to build and visualize new branches between archival studies and classical studies.
Keep up with Sarah Buchanan’s work on her faculty page at University of Missouri.
Updated on February 20, 2019 by Garrett R. Bruner. firstname.lastname@example.org