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.
Where is your job located?
I am part of ACNR at Archives II in College Park.
What is your job in a nutshell?
As an appraisal archivist, I assist agencies in identifying and describing their records, determining which records are temporary or permanent and then developing records schedules that formalize the proper disposition of those records. The ultimate goal is to ensure that permanent records which possess enduing archival are retained by the National Archives and preserved for future use.
What are you working on right now? (Why is it cool/why does it matter?)
I am currently working with the General Services Administration on a comprehensive (“big bucket”) records schedule that will schedule all of the records generated by GSA that are not covered by the NARA General Records Schedule (GRS). This matters because this work is integral to NARA’s mission and involves a number of NARA goals and objectives which are a naturally occurring part of my work. Records appraisal and scheduling are the first in a number of steps to facilitate public access to high value government records. The work I am doing now will determine the permanent records that NARA will accession in the years to come. This work is helping to reform and modernize records management policies and practices in conjunction with being responsive and understanding with regard to the needs of our agency customers. I like to think that my current and future work will strive to best address and serve the lifecycles of all manner of government records.
How long have you been at NARA? Have you worked at any other NARA location?
I have worked at NARA for 8 years. I started in Research Services as a processing archivist in the Archivist Development (ADP) program. I have not worked in a permanent position at any other NARA location. However, did spend several months at the WNRC working on a project that involved an inventory of classified records. This gave me insight into some of the challenges of record center work. What has changed since you started at NARA? I arrived at NARA during a transition period. Until recently my vantage point was the processing branch in Research Services. Around 2006 a number of long time employees had recently retired and a new generation of archivists professionally trained in archival studies programs began joining NARA’s ranks. I was a member of this cohort. It has been gratifying to see a shift in emphasis from historical to archival expertise. This is not so say that the new archivist’s lack education or interest in history, because they do not. The difference is that the new generation self-identify as professional archivists, and view their work and its relationship to the goals of NARA’s strategic plan in those terms. This is important because professionally processed and described holdings greatly contribute to making access happen.
Do you have a favorite day at NARA, or a favorite discovery or accomplishment?
I enjoyed sense of accomplishment as part of the team effort to process and describe approximately 40,000 cubic feet of Department of Justice case files and enclosures during FY 2013. This was a huge undertaking that significantly improved the accessibility of these records. This work also brought to light significant materials relating to Justice Department investigations into matters of civil rights, voting rights, equal education, and prison conditions. Particularly poignant were files that contained handwritten letters from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s sent to DOJ from all over the country pleading with the Department to investigate citizen claims of civil rights violations.
What are your passions or interests outside of work?
My current hobby is cars. I have owned Mercedes-Benz automobiles for the last 20 years. Within the last few years I decided acquire and fix-up (restore is too strong of a word) a 1990 S Class sedan that has become my daily driver. I also have another 1988 “rescue” car in my garage that I am currently rebuilding the transmission with the hope of making it roadworthy.
What is the last book you read, or the last book you loved?
Of late the only books I read are related to my research into the psychology of archives. The last book I read was Collecting: An Unruly Passion: Psychological Perspectives by Werner Muensterberger. Though not specifically about archivists, there are many parallels that can be drawn.
Are there any other cool facts that you would like folks to know about you?
Working at the National Archives is a dream come true. Being a professional archivist is a second career for me. Prior to 2006, I worked in various capacities in the maritime shipping business including 20 years as an officer in the Merchant Marine, as an Operations Manager for two shipping lines, and as a marine surveyor for a national company. It is rare to be able to completely change careers late in life and have as successful of a transition as I have enjoyed. I never lose sight of how lucky I am.