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 Erin Townsend, Archivist and Digitization Project Manager for the Textual Archives Services Division.
What is your name and title?
Erin Townsend, Archivist and Digitization Project Manager for the Textual Archives Services Division (NWCT).
Where is your job located?
Archives II in College Park, Maryland.
What is your job in a nutshell?
I help to coordinate digitization projects, mostly with our external digitization partners. My days consist of pulling and re-shelving records, tracking the movement of records, training NARA and external partner staff on digitization project procedures, coordinating with NARA conservation staff to ensure records receive any treatment necessary for safe digitization, ensuring archival quality assurance reviews take place for digitization projects on a regular basis, reporting on the progress of digitization projects, drafting digitization project plans, and participating in negotiations and meetings with current and potential digitization partners. Basically, I’m one of the many people working toward making NARA’s holdings available online.
What are you working on right now?
As a trainee in NARA’s Archivist Development Program (ADP), I’ve recently had the opportunity to participate in both internal and external training rotations. I just completed a 30-day rotation outside of NARA, at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art. While there, I processed the papers of Peter and Rose Krasnow. Peter was a painter, printmaker, and sculptor, and his wife Rose was a prolific writer of poems, short stories, and plays. I enjoyed my time at Archives of American Art—it was interesting to experience how archival processing is done at another archival repository. It’s exciting that, through the Archivist Development Program, NARA is giving new archivists a chance to see what’s happening in the broader archival world.
When I’m not on a training rotation, the majority of my time is spent coordinating the Ancestry.com digitization project based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Both NARA and Ancestry employees work at this office: NARA employees prepare the records for digitization and monitor the handling of the records, while Ancestry employees image the records. Through the efforts of both NARA and Ancestry staff, a huge volume of records has been digitized at the Silver Spring office and will soon be available online.
How long have you been at NARA? Have you worked at any other NARA location?
I’ve been at NARA since September of 2008.
Do you have a favorite day at NARA, or a favorite discovery or accomplishment?
One great day was when the Reports of the Deaths of American Citizens Abroad went live on Ancestry.com. This was the first project I worked on with Ancestry, and it was really nice to see the results of our efforts available online.
What are your passions or interests outside of work?
My favorite thing to do outside of work is travel—I love exploring new places and learning about other cultures. My husband and I spent two years teaching in China as Peace Corps volunteers, and since moving back to the States in 2008, we’ve tried to squeeze in a couple trips abroad to keep the wanderlust at bay. In addition to traveling, I also enjoy reading, watching movies, and spending time with my pets: Finnegan the hound dog and Hector the hedgehog.
What is the last book you read, or the last book you loved?
I just finished Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, a novel set during the Depression about a young man working as a veterinarian with a traveling circus. It was an enjoyable read, with incredibly vivid descriptions. You can really tell that Gruen did extensive research in writing the book.
My next reading goal is to get through a good chunk of Time Magazine’s 100 best novels. There are so many novels on the list that I’ve always meant to read, but haven’t had the time. Hopefully I can stick with it!
Meet more NARA employees: http://www.archives.gov/careers/employees/