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Farewell UH

Department News, Guest Posts

The following comes to us courtesy of Alison Clemens, exiting Houston and Texas Archives Fellow here at the University of Houston Special Collections.  This farewell is bittersweet as we will certainly miss Alison’s insight and expertise.  However, our loss is Yale University’s gain and we wish her all the best in her new position with the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

I joined the staff here in Special Collections in August 2012 as our Houston and Texas Archives Fellow. This was my first professional position as an archivist, as I’d graduated from the University of Texas’s School of Information (iSchool) in the summer of 2012. I was thrilled to join the staff here at UH, and I was excited to work with the outstanding materials in Special Collections and learn more about the vibrant history of Houston. My time here has been very rewarding, and before I leave UH to move on to my new, permanent archivist position, I wanted to have the opportunity to look back over my tenure and share and reflect upon some of my most memorable experiences.

I started my tenure by conducting a survey of our collections, which served two important purposes. First, such surveys allow us to figure out the best way to prioritize collections for projects like additional description and digitization. Second, the survey let me dive into our collections and get a real feel for the treasures we have here.

The focus of my fellowship has been “processing” archival collections, or organizing and describing them to make them available for use by the scholarly and local community. I love processing for a couple of reasons. First, I gain a deep satisfaction from handling primary source materials and seeing how history is embodied in artifactual remnants. Second, processing allows me to spend my time researching a broad variety of subject areas, depending on what collecting I’m working on.

I split my time at UH between processing materials in our Houston and Texas History Collections and our Houston Hip Hop Collections. This meant that I worked with materials ranging from early Texana, including land grants issued to the original Anglo settlers of Texas by Stephen F. Austin, to a gray tape created by DJ Screw. The end goal of this all of this work has been to properly care for the materials and ensure that they’re available for research and use for years to come.

Lightnin’ Hopkins from the Texas Music Collection

Lightnin’ Hopkins from the Texas Music Collection

I also greatly enjoyed working on departmental outreach projects, like piloting our Brown Bag Presentation Series, for which I presented on our Texas Music Collection. This presentation allowed me to share the riches found in our collections with library staff members, as well as online viewers.

My fellowship also afforded me excellent support in developing my knowledge of evolutions and trends in the library and archives fields. I attended classes on working with digital materials at Rare Book School at University of Virginia and through the Society of American Archivists, and I was able to bring my newfound knowledge back to UH to assist with managing digital hip hop album artwork in our Pen & Pixel Graphics, Inc. Records. I also gave a presentation entitled “From Flows to Finding Aids: Processing the Houston Hip Hop Collections at the University of Houston Libraries” at the Society of Southwest Archivists Annual Meeting.

Master P, "The Last Don," from the Houston Hip Hop Collection

Master P, “The Last Don,” from the Houston Hip Hop Collection

Overall, my fellowship has been beneficial in numerous ways. It provided Special Collections with professional level staffing to facilitate completion of departmental priorities like processing, collection management, and increasing digital library collections. It has also helped to promote the collections at UH to a wide range of audiences. Finally, the fellowship has provided me with the professional development support to educate myself on the library and archives field and bring back the knowledge I’ve gleaned to help further Special Collections’ mission of preserving and providing access to our cultural history.

To learn more about the collections we have, check out our website and search our finding aids database. Or, if you’d like to see some these archival materials in person, visit Special Collections!

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