Ever wonder what exciting new projects the many employees at NARA are working on? The “What are You Working On?” blog feature aims to introduce a variety of NARA employees and highlight some of the exciting projects we are working on around the agency. Check for this blog series on Wednesdays!
This week we introduce Judy Luis-Watson, Volunteer Coordinator at Archives II in College Park, Maryland in our FIRST video edition of this series.
What is your name and title?
Judy Luis-Watson, Volunteer Coordinator, National Archives at College Park (Archives II)
Where is your job located?
National Archives at College Park (Archives II). It is the largest modern archives in the world and the second largest federal building. This huge 3-in-1 building features a research facility, offices, and stacks for storing permanently valuable federal records. It is nestled among tall, beautiful trees and the landscaping is inviting.
What is your job in a nutshell?
My job is to develop and manage the volunteer program at Archives II to help supplement the work done by our archival staff. Collaborating with the volunteer coordinator at Archives I (Washington, DC) helps us to maintain cohesive volunteer policies and procedures that serve both our buildings.
As a member of the education team, I contribute to projects such as the DC National History Day and the fabulous new DocsTeach website that includes records researched by volunteers at Archives II. Conducting orientation and training for volunteers in cooperation with archivists and conservators is a big part of my job. I also train docents to give tours of Archives II on an as-needed basis. Lead volunteers play a critical role in helping to keep large group projects moving and organized.
In FY 10, 90 volunteers contributed over 14,000 hours to over 30 projects at Archives II. I enjoy working with highly self-motivated volunteers who love history. Their diverse experience, eagerness for lifelong learning, and enthusiasm about being a part of something that is larger than themselves – the National Archives – is energizing.
What are you working on right now?
In addition to the on-going archival projects that require daily supervision, organization, and support, we’re getting a new finding aid project with WWII records (RG 18) off the ground. There are thousands of boxes and volunteers are creating a file title list to make the records more searchable and easier to use. Once completed, this will be of great help to researchers and our archival staff. Because this Access database will get transferred to the on-line Archival Research Catalog, you can see how the finding aid will provide greater access to these records. The work is not glamorous, but it matters a lot.
How long have you been at NARA? Have you worked at any other NARA location?
I joined NARA in January 2008 and work primarily at Archives II in College Park. At Archives I in Washington, DC, I participate in meetings of our education team and the Center for the National Archives Experience as well as monthly Board meetings and special events of the National Archives Volunteer Association (NAVA).
What has changed since you started at NARA?
We have a new archivist who has a vision to take NARA forward, and he encourages more openness and greater communication. It’s a good start with potential for positive change within the agency.
Do you have a favorite day at NARA, or a favorite discovery or accomplishment?
The annual 100 Hours Celebration is one of my favorites because it is an opportunity to honor and thank in a very special way the volunteers who’ve contributed at least 100 hours of service to NARA in the year. It also allows managers and supervisors to interact socially with the volunteers who give so much to the agency. Volunteers tell me they look forward to this celebration that is sponsored by the Foundation for the National Archives and the National Archives.
Watch Judy’s tour of the volunteer facilities at Archives II and meet some of our volunteers:
What are your passions or interests outside of work?
Music is my passion – I enjoy creating, learning and collaborating with other musicians. Also, reading biographies and cultural history and writing are constant companions. If time were limitless, I would spend hours gardening and admiring the birds and butterflies. I make time to volunteer in my community.
What is the last book you read, or the last book you loved?
I loved Barbara Kingsolver’s Lacuna. She is a superb story teller who has a way of making history come alive with beautiful language; I learned a lot about Mexico. In Hellhound on His Trail, my most recent read, Hampton Sides shaped this non-fiction book as if it was fiction. It left me with a greater understanding of Martin Luther King Jr., the man who was chosen to be a leader. Though this could have been just a dark story of assassination and despair, what emerged was the healing power of non-violence.