Closing Down the Archives and Working Remotely

by Sheri Sarnoff - March 31, 2020

Exactly two weeks ago, I was working at the Archives on the reference desk, as students from a variety of classes came to look at collections that they were assigned to for projects that were due right before spring break. While the time before Spring Break is usually busy with students trying to get last minute information before they went home, this time it was different. This time, the students did not know if they would ever get the chance to come back to campus this semester. Nervous students came in, trying to gather as much information as possible, and I tried to manage the reference desk, along with my co-workers, while also being hyper aware to sanitize our hands after we pulled collections from the back or handed a researcher a photo form. This anxiety continued throughout the day, but the staff at the department greeted everyone with a smile, in hopes that we would continue to stay open and provide them with access to our collections, even if it was only through digital reference.

At 4:45pm, I started packing up the collection I had been processing, and it hit me that this might be the last time I would be physically working at the Archives. After spending four and a half years working here, it was a lot to take in. I began working at the Archives in 2016 as an undergraduate, and now four and a half years later, I am graduating with my second master’s degree. I have grown as an archivist and a person in this job, and it hit me that I might not get to spend my last two months of graduate school finishing my last collection and working with the staff that had helped me pursue my career. That was hard.

Thankfully, while it is not the same, I am able to work remotely on updating our finding aids. While this is not the same as processing a physical collection, the work is just as important. Since our Archives is closed, and researchers cannot access the physical materials, I was tasked with the job of creating collection-level finding aids in ArchivesSpace for collections that previously featured only an abstract online. This will help researchers get a better sense of what some of our collections hold. This will also help future students who work at the Archives as they will get to process these physical collections one day, and may use the top-level finding aids as a guide.

It is therefore, not goodbye yet and while part of me clings to some hope that I will be able to come back in May, even for a week or two, I am thankful that I can still continue to work and help the Archives that has helped me so much through my time at the University.