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#AskAnArchivist Day, October 7, 2020

Smith College Archivists

What do archivists do all day? Is there more than one type of archivist? What’s the coolest (and weirdest) artifact from the archives? 

If any of these questions — or any others — have ever run through your mind, you’ll soon have your chance to ask them of staff members from Smith College Special Collections.

On Wednesday, October 7th from 2 p.m.–5 p.m., staff from Smith College Special Collections will participate in #AskAnArchivist Day. #AskAnArchivist Day is an initiative by the Society of American Archivists. Those curious about archives and archivists are encouraged to ask their burning questions; institutions across the country will participate in this year’s event.

Here at Smith, three duos of Special Collections staffers will take over the department’s Twitter and Facebook for one hour each. Any question you can think up about Smith College Special Collections, the roles of archivists, and archives in general, our archivists will be ready to answer.

Meet the participating archivists — and learn the schedule — below:

Nanci Young and Althea Topek (2 p.m. – 3 p.m.)

Of the archivists participating in #AskAnArchivist Day, Nanci Young, College Archivist, is the one who has been with Smith College Special Collections the longest, logging 22 years with Smith. As College Archivist, Nanci oversees the collection of material that documents life at Smith and ensures the accessibility of these materials. Through these materials, she works to broaden the understanding of history of Smith College within the history of higher education. Nanci sees participating in #AskAnArchivist Day as an extension of her everyday job, answering questions and connecting people with materials. She assures those thinking of asking anything during the day that there are no silly questions,so ask away!

Smith College Special Collections’ newest staff member is Althea Topek, Accessioning Archivist, who has been in her role for just three months. Althea manages the intake of all material across Special Collections’ three repositories, making it available for research use. Althea has been working in archives for over three years, and has gotten a lot of questions about what she does. For #AskAnArchivist Day, she hopes to answer a few of those questions, on behalf of other oft-questioned archives professionals.

Madison White and Kate Long (3 p.m. – 4 p.m.)

Madison White ‘16 began her career at Smith College Special Collections before even graduating from Smith — she was a student worker back in 2014. After receiving her graduate degree, Madison rejoined the staff and is now a Processing Archivist, which means she organizes and describes SC’s archival materials. Madison is participating in #AskAnArchivist Day because she, like Althea, recognizes that many outside the industry are not familiar with what archivists do. She wants to ensure that people feel comfortable with archives so that they may visit them and maybe even donate their own materials to archives. Madison is soliciting particular questions — she would love to talk about diversity and equity issues within the archives profession, such as how archives can aid social justice initiatives and where archives can fall flat in this mission.

Kate Long is also a new addition at Smith: she joined Special Collections as the Research Services Archivist just six months ago. In this role, Kate answers questions from information-seekers, and works to connect people with SC’s collections. Though new to Smith, Kate’s been in archives for nine years. For #AskAnArchivist Day, Kate is excited to shine a light on the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in archives, and to remind folks that archives are for all to use. Kate is ready to answer questions about who uses archives and what the profession at large is doing to make archives more welcoming and accessible for all (and, of course, she is ready to answer questions about interesting items from the collections.

Mary Biddle and Dan Michelson (4 p.m. – 5 p.m.)

As Reading Room Supervisor, Mary Biddle oversees the physical space of Special Collections, but that’s not the whole story — her job also entails staffing the reference desk and managing the department’s student workers. During the  COVID closure, Mary is keeping busy scanning items for virtual reference and digitization requests. Mary has been in archives for three years, and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Archives and Records Administration. She’s participating in #AskAnArchivist Day to show off some of our wonderful materials — she particularly wants to show off the 1880’s issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book that appears in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie, and is hoping someone asks to see it.

Dan Michelson leads the Access to Collections (known as A2C) project. Since in 2018, the team behind the A2C project, led by Dan, has been working to increase equitable access to collections among Special Collections’ three repositories. Dan has been in archives for a decade, and has worked at Smith for two years. He’s participating in #AskAnArchivist Day because he enjoys talking about archives just about as much as he enjoys working in them.

Join these outstanding archivists on our Twitter and Facebook pages from 2pm until 4pm on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Tweet us with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist; ask a question on Facebook using the comment section of #AskAnArchivist posts. We hope to see you then!


Alison Baitz