The Archival Students Guild (ASG) is the University of South Carolina’s student chapter of the Society of American Archivists. Since its founding in 2003, ASG has focused on providing professional development opportunities to students interested in careers in archives, records management, and related fields.
We try to tour at least one archive or manuscript repository every semester in order to help our members see how the theories they have learned in the classroom are put into practice. We have traditionally focused on touring archives in the Columbia area, including SCPC’s own Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library. While planning our activities for the Spring 2012 semester, we decided that it was time to branch out and explore repositories a little bit farther from home. With its abundance of cultural and historical resources, Charleston seemed like an obvious place to visit. The staff of the Avery Research Center, the MUSC University Archives, and the Waring Historical Library graciously agreed to tell us about their operations and take us on behind-the-scenes tours of their repositories.
We left Columbia for Charleston early on Friday, February 17. Our first stop of the day was the Avery Research Center, a unit of the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library. Coordinator of Archival Services & Donor Relations and USC (and ASG!) alumna Georgette Mayo and HistoryMakers Fellow Aaisha Haykal got our day off to a good start by introducing us to the mission and history of this important repository of records and artifacts documenting the history and culture of African Americans in Charleston and the Lowcountry. They then led us on a tour of the stacks and reading room, which allowed us to see how the Avery staff apply the principles of archival theory to preserve their collections and share them with researchers. A brief talk by Reference Archivist Deborah Wright aided us greatly in understanding the workings of the reading room. Georgette and Aaisha then described some of the institution’s outreach activities to us, including its participation in the Lowcountry Digital Library. Our morning concluded with a tour of the Avery Research Center museum.
After a relaxing lunch at a Charleston sandwich shop, Waring Historical Library Curator Susan Hoffius and University Archivist Brooke Fox introduced us to their collections at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Our first order of business there was a tour through the University Archives, where our hosts discussed the mission of the archives and the activities currently undertaken by archival staff. We then walked over to the Waring Historical Library, where Susan and Brooke reviewed the library’s history and the nature of its collections with us and gave us a tour of the building. They also spoke about their work digitizing components of MUSC’s collections to share with the university community and the public through the Waring’s online exhibits and MEDICA, MUSC’s institutional repository (which is also accessible through the Lowcountry Digital Library).
Our day in Charleston concluded with a tour of the Macaulay Museum of Dental History and a group photo (below), after which we began the drive back to Columbia.
All of our hosts were very gracious and very generous with their time and knowledge. They answered all of our questions and provided us with honest and valuable insights into archival work, for which we are very grateful. ASG members who participated in this field trip found it to be an enjoyable and educational experience. Although we won’t be abandoning the archives and manuscript repositories of Columbia any time soon, we are looking forward to planning our next trip to visit archives in other parts of the region.
– contributed by Laura Litwer, SCPC Graduate Assistant and ASG Treasurer (AY 2011-2012)