Student Blog Posts

Life as a Remote Student Worker

Jasmine Ambrose - May 18, 2020

When you think of your freshman year of college, what first comes to mind? Would it be the partying? Maybe even the clubs you joined, or special events your school held? In my case, the first thing that comes to mind is COVID-19. I think about how it shifted my way of learning, and even working. The experience was definitely something new to me, which surprisingly wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, but I hope it never occurs again. One thing I was excited about, was being employed my freshman year. Not only was the transition into college hard mentally, but financially as well, so a job for myself was a major goal I wanted to accomplish. Thankfully, for my spring semester my professor had introduced me to a position with the Department of Special Collections & Archives at the University at Albany. (This is also a good tip...

A Semester in Special Collections

Britney Colas - May 18, 2020

My experience working for the Department of Special Collections & Archives was great. I really enjoyed working for the department on campus. But working from home was an adjustment, along with working on my time management. Unfortunately, it has been very hard for me to keep focused and get work done while at home. Supervisory Archivist Jodi Boyle has been very helpful with walking me through this process, which I greatly appreciate. Although I have not been able to completely explore the department, I would like to see more collections from historical Black figures. I am currently working on a minor in Africana Studies and would love to have the opportunity to study the works of historical Black figures that could possibly be featured in the department in the near future. At times it became very challenging to juggle archive work and schoolwork while also dealing with the affects of...

Societal Table-Flipper

Hunter Findon - April 23, 2020

Upon the arrival of the societal table-flipper that is the COVID-19 virus, UAlbany closed down, pushed their students out, and required employees to work remotely. This left me in a place where I had to adapt to a new form of schedule which relied entirely upon my own discipline and choice as opposed to the set structure found on campus. This change allowed me to choose where and when I wanted to work. Instead of working in the brightly lit processing room of the Department of Special Collections & Archives, I would find myself surrounded by family and in the comfort of my own home. Moreover, I would be in a place where I would not have to worry about contracting the pandemic virus. Before the pandemic, my project in the Department of Special Collections & Archives involved vetting books in our department’s stacks to potentially be transferred to the...

Closing Down the Archives and Working Remotely

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...

Espy Project: Missing Executions from 1860-1875 Mississippi

Miles Lawlor - May 20, 2019

Looking back, I was most struck by how many executions in the American South had been left uncounted in the original dataset. The first state that I was assigned to create metadata for was Mississippi. While I do not have a background in the history of the death penalty, there was something that just seemed... off about the data. When I initially scanned through the execution IDs that were already in use from M. Watt Espy's dataset, I was surprised to see what I thought were relatively long gaps in the time between executions in the 19th century. Had the state really not put anyone to death between 1859 and 1875? Given the rate of executions in Mississippi during the early 20th century, this didn't seem all that likely. Had the Civil War and Reconstruction perhaps been a period of significantly lower crime rates or lenient sentences? Newspaper clipping documenting...

Espy Project: Working with Challanging or Anonymous Records

Amanda Partridge - May 15, 2019

Having spent countless days and months reading over and documenting the Espy materials, I have a come to appreciate what he was trying to accomplish. Having collected most of his materials before the Internet and the variety and number of sources he was able to gather shows his diligence and dedication. Sometimes the execution would be no more than a passing mention in a narrators recollections. Others would be thirty documents long having been written about over and over again. Some of those executed were well know criminals like, Bonnie and Clyde while others were not considered important enough at the time to bother publishing their names. A few were "special" enough to have invitations sent and this relic may be all that is left to inform the future of this person's death. I have read many letters written to court clerks, historical societies and libraries, following up on leads...

Espy Project: Disparities in Documentation

Sheri Sarnoff - May 13, 2019

Watt Espy kept detailed notes of the executions that he found in various newspapers, archives, books, correspondence, and prison records. While Espy's notes were often detailed, the records themselves often lacked information that helped identify the person who was being executed. Often times, the records would indicate the crime committed, when and where the execution took place, the name of the executioner, any fees that the execution produced, and sometimes they even identified the witnesses that attended the execution. Despite all of these details, the name of the person being executed was often left out. Usually if the person being executed was African American or Native American, not only would the record not contain their name, but it would also not contain their gender. This contrasted the execution records of white Americans, which usually had identifiable information including the name of the person being executed, their family, details of the...

The Second Installment of "Hidden Collections" from the National Death Penalty Archives Made Available

Jason Thomas - August 05, 2015

Three new collections have recently been completed as part of the Building New Access Tools for the National Death Penalty Archive project and are available to researchers. The ongoing project to process and make available 10 collections from the National Death Penalty Archives is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) as part of its Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program. Finding aids to the Bill Pelke Papers, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation Records, and the Victor Streib Papers can now be found on the M.E. Grenander Special Collections and Archives webpage. Visitors may now request to see any part of these collections in the Marcia Brown Reading Room on the third floor of the Science Library. The Bill Pelke Papers contain the records of political activist Bill Pelke and document his efforts toward the abolition of the death penalty in the United States from the...