[Guest Post] Wayne State Student Experiences

The following post is a collaborative effort of the Wayne State University’s SAA Chapter that shares some of the experiences members have had during their time in the program. You can follow them on Facebook.                                       

When our chapter was contacted and asked to write a post for the SNAP Blog, we jumped at the chance. Although we’re all busy students with full-time class loads, jobs, internships, and a myriad of outside projects, we know how important it is to do outreach and advocate for ourselves. We also knew that we wanted to write the post in such a way that as many members as wished to would get a chance to have a voice.

We struggled somewhat to come up with an cohesive topic that would let all of us speak, but after a productive meeting that included an officer who had graduated from the program, we thought the best way to share our Wayne State University voice would be to talk about our archival experiences here in the Motor City. Each of us here at SAA@WSU has been able to learn from and contribute to the rich culture and history to be found in Detroit.

Elizabeth Nicholson – SAA@WSU President

When embarking on my search for a Library Science and Archival program I had a tough decision to make: should I stay in the Metro Detroit area and attend Wayne State University or should I go elsewhere? Two years later, I’m nearing the end of my degree, and I am so glad I stayed! The archival program here has provided me with so many valuable opportunities. I have been privileged to volunteer at five different institutions as a student, including the Archdiocese of Detroit, the Charles H. Wright Museum, the Michigan Opera Theatre, and two departments at Wayne State University. Each opportunity allowed me to gain valuable experience with processing, digitization, preservation, and other aspects of the archival profession.

In an audiovisual archives class last year, the students were all given mini-internships at local institutions. Because of my background in vocal music I requested to go to the Michigan Opera Theatre’s Allesee Dance and Opera Resource Library. While there, I took command of their reel-to-reel collection consisting of past Michigan Opera Theatre performances to organize and digitize them. I loved my time there so much I have been there ever since. Now I run the reel-to-reel aspect of the Library and continue to improve and further their digitization effort.

Nicholson_BlogPhoto Elizabeth working the reel-to-reel at the Michigan Opera Theatre

Being a part of the Wayne State MLIS and Archival program as well as the President of SAA@WSU has enriched my experiences and allowed me to impact the community beyond what I could have imagined.

Devin Erlandson – SAA@WSU Vice President and Social Media Manager/Webmaster

I decided to move to Detroit to attend Wayne State University despite the fact that I could have completed my MLIS online. Detroit has a lot to offer in the way of historical, cultural, and arts organizations, and I knew that with my focus on archives and a B.A. in History, I wanted to live here in order to take advantage of those opportunities. I also wanted to get involved with student organizations! I’ve had the pleasure of being the Social Media Manager and Webmaster for our SAA student chapter since the Winter 2014 semester, and I’ve been the Vice President starting with the Fall 2014 semester.

Erlandson_BlogPhotoDevin’s work area at the Burton Historical Collection

I have been lucky enough to have a few different internship and volunteer opportunities while at Wayne State. During the Summer 2014 semester I was the Ronald Raven Award intern at the Walter Reuther Library. While there I got to hone my skills processing according to MPLP, and I got to write a number of finding aids. I also got the chance to write a blog post about Nisei students who attended then-Wayne University during World War II. The Ronald Raven Award is something several past and current SAA student chapter members have been awarded; it’s a great opportunity to work in a university archive setting.

This semester I’m completing my practicum at the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library. I’ve been able to process a few collections, all related to Detroit history in some way. I love doing archival work, especially when I get to focus on the history aspect of collections—local history is something I really love delving into. I’ll be graduating from Wayne State University in May with my MLIS and Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration. I know that my experiences in Detroit and with the Society of American Archivists student chapter will serve me well for the future.

Kris Kniffen – SAA@WSU History Department Liaison

I first chose to attend Wayne State University because of their joint MA in History and MLIS degree program – something that I hadn’t come across at other universities and that fit my interests perfectly. I’ve now been at it for about two years, and it has been an extremely rewarding experience. As a result of the dual nature of my studies, I’ve been able to see both sides of the archive – I’ve been both a patron and as an archive intern and volunteer. Across the board, Detroit has been a great place to be either.

As my fellow SAA folks have mentioned, there are numerous opportunities to be had in Detroit at institutions that vary widely in terms of size, focus, and funding. This means that as a group, we can visit the tiny archive at Troy Historic Village one semester and then take a tour of the enormous Henry Ford archive the next. When it comes to individually finding opportunities to practice our trade, the opportunities have been just as diverse.

Kniffen_BlogPhotoA Monkey Bar – one of the many oddities enjoyed during our tour of the Henry Ford’s collections

Personally, just this semester I’ve had the chance to serve as the Ronald Raven intern at the Walter Reuther Library, the largest labor archive in the nation, while also volunteering with the Troy Historic Village archive – a small museum archive that is contained in a single room. Each has been an incredible learning experience. At the Reuther I have been working through a number of university collections, ranging from everything from the founding of the history department—a fun collection for one of the department’s current students!—to the federal programs run by the College of Nursing during WWII in an effort to meet the demand for medical personnel in Europe. At the Village, by contrast, I’ve been assisting with the digitization of photographs of the Village’s own institutional history, from photographs documenting the restoration of their historic buildings, to photographs of annual events like “heritage days.”

This upcoming semester, my adventures will continue at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where I will get to work alongside Katy Schroeder to complete my practicum.

Katy Schroeder – SAA@WSU Member

Something people may not realize about Detroit is the large amount of cultural and information institutions located in and around the city. Having exposure to such institutions is immensely rewarding to students, like me, in Wayne State University’s MLIS program. We have access to many different institutions that provide internships, practicums, and volunteer opportunities. One such institution is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The MLIS program at Wayne State and the Research Library & Archives at the Wright Museum have a wonderfully collaborative relationship sharing resources and serving as a place for Wayne State students earning their MLIS and Archival Administration certificates to come and obtain valuable experience. This is where I work as the Library/Archives Assistant. I actually started out as a volunteer before I was hired into an internship program. At first, I did not even know of the MLIS and Archival Administration programs at Wayne State. It was as a volunteer that I met students working on their practicum at the Wright and learned of this unique graduate program just a few blocks away. Enjoying my work at the museum I decided to apply. Now, almost three years later I am in my last semester and about to earn my MLIS and Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration.

Working at the Wright afforded me a multitude of archival experience and allowed me to learn about processing, cataloging, databases, donor relations, digitization, preservation and many other aspects of archival work. Since beginning the program I have been able to contribute so much more and apply everything I learned in a real-world setting. Going to school and working in such a close proximity has been immensely rewarding and beneficial.

Mara Powell – SAA@WSU Member

One of the great things about being an archival student in Detroit is the many opportunities to volunteer, not only in the city, but also in surrounding Metro Detroit communities. Through a class regarding visual collections in archives, I was placed at the Leo M. Franklin Archives at Temple Beth-El in Bloomfield Township, MI—just a 20 minute drive from the Wayne State University campus. For the assignment, I digitized scrapbooks of the founder’s granddaughter, Mary Freida Einstein. The scrapbooks were in various stages of deterioration, so it was important to capture how they looked before their conditions worsened. These scrapbooks, which chronicle much of Mary Frieda Einstein’s life, are important to the donor (her husband) and the temple’s congregation. I was happy to be able to contribute help to this archive while gaining experience in digitizing.

Powell_BlogPhotoMara working at the Leo M. Franklin Archive

When I had extra time during the summer, I was able to go back to the Leo M. Franklin Archive to help out on another project. This time, I processed a photography collection from NA’AMAT, formerly Pioneer Women. NA’AMAT is an organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for women and children around the world. The collection contains photographs spanning events, activities, and members of the Detroit area group from the mid-1930s all the way up until the early 2000s.

Another digitizing project I was able to work on here involved letters from former students who were stationed around the world during World War II to a teacher belonging to the congregation. These digitized letters were used in a small visual exhibit the archivist put together about life as a solider during World War II. I hope to return to the archive this summer to volunteer again.


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