Meet the Archivist: Gail

March 17, 2015

One of our goals on this blog is to pull back the curtain on the work we do in the University Archives. A lot of people wonder what an archivist does, so we thought we’d introduce ourselves and explain why we love our jobs! 

How long have you worked in the Norwich University Archives and what is your role? I’ve worn a number of different hats since I came to Norwich in 2008 to help organize our extensive photograph collection. In my current role as Archivist for Digital Collections and Access Services, my time is split between providing assistance to researchers, establishing a web presence for the University Archives, and making more information about our collections available online. Since the launch of our Digital Collections last year, my biggest focus has been on improving and growing the number of documents and photographs we make available through the site.

Why are you an archivist? A combination of happenstance and a love for history. Although not the path I originally thought I’d take, internship and volunteer opportunities steered me towards the archives profession. I’ve become a big believer in the role that archives play not just in retaining the “interesting” tidbits of history, but also in safeguarding documents that can be vital for preserving an organization’s identity over the long term as well as providing context for future decision-making.

What is the best part of your job? I love the experience of seeing others discover and make use of our collections. Whether it’s the realization that you can understand and relate to someone’s life 200 years ago or the moment a major connection is uncovered, it is a great feeling to be along for the ride when a discovery happens.

What is your favorite part of the University Archives collections? This is a question I can never answer consistently! Through my work with researchers, I am constantly getting a glimpse into what’s exciting to others and learning more about our collections myself.

For example, I’ve recently spent a lot of time with a collection of negatives kept by former university physician, Dr. Edgar Hyde, during his service as head of the 91st Evacuation Hospital in World War II. This riveting collection began attracting interest almost as soon as we were able to put the collection guide online. And every time we get a new nibble – I get to discover a little more.

Cluster of tents and clotheslines

World War II field hospital in Casablanca, from the Edgar Hyde Photographs

Another favorite that I’ve kept coming back to are the letters written between cadet Samuel Pitkin and his mother and sister in 1822. Everything from Pitkin’s drawings and penmanship to his detailed descriptions of cadet life to his close relationships with family back home make these letters a treat!

Note: Our Digital Collections site has a new URL. Nothing about the site itself has changed, but you can now access it at archives.norwich.edu–super easy to remember! Please take a moment to update any bookmarks or links you may have.

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