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A Farewell from Ryder Kouba

Department News, Guest Posts, University Archives

The following comes to us courtesy of Ryder Kouba, exiting University Archives Fellow here at the University of Houston Special Collections. After a year and a half of service to the University, Ryder has accepted the position of Digital Collections Archivist in the University Archives at the American University in Cairo. We wish Ryder all of our best!

In August 2012 I joined the staff of Special Collections as the University Archives Fellow. Fresh out of the University of Texas’ School of Information, I was excited to return to my hometown of Houston to help preserve and make accessible the unique history of UH. Working at UH for the past 18 months has been a very rewarding experience, both professionally and personally.

My tenure began with a fun project documenting the history of the venerable Robertson Stadium before it was torn down in the fall of 2012. To create an exhibit covering the multiple uses of Robertson over the years required background research into notable events, what materials we had in our collections, and reaching out to departments around campus and individuals in the community.

A focus of my time was creating policies and procedures for the University Archives and Special Collections with Mary Manning, the University Archivist. An important aspect of documenting the university’s history is acquiring the appropriate materials; to that end Mary and I created transfer policies and guidelines for departments on campus as well as for private individuals, such as alumni. Standardizing these processes will allow Mary to acquire materials more efficiently from a wide variety of organizations and people.

Establishing guidelines for accessioning born-digital materials was the largest project I worked on, and I feel like the most valuable. When I arrived the University Archives had over 600 CDs, which as anyone who has scratched one can attest, are not the most durable of media. Creating policies and procedures from scratch was an intensive process of researching the fundamentals of preserving born digital materials (which UT had given me a solid foundation in) and seeing what other institutions were doing. After much work fine tuning our procedures, experimenting with software, and sharing it with fellow staff members, I’m happy to report that most of the 600+ CDs have been moved to storage on our servers.

I have been lucky that UH has been very supportive in my professional development; I’ve been able to attend conferences and workshops, particularly regarding digital practices, and bring my newfound knowledge back to UH. I was also able to present a case study of our development of policies and procedures at the Society of Southwest Archivists conference in 2013.

The end of my time at UH began as it started; working on an exhibit that Mary is putting together showcasing the history of Frontier Fiesta, one of UH’s most notable traditions. Overall, it’s been a wonderful year and a half for me, and Special Collections as well. I’ve provided professional level staffing to process university records, create policies and procedures, and showcase university archives holdings through exhibits. I have also been able to serve the entire library through committee work and serve both the university and community through providing reference services and outreach.

I will miss my colleagues in both Special Collections and M. D. Anderson Library and look forward to hearing about the exciting growth of the library and university in the coming years.

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