Meet the Staff is a Q&A series on Out of the Stacks that highlights the Archives and Information Services staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
In 50 words or less, describe what you do.
As an archivist, I spend most of my time processing—that is, arranging and describing—state records, along with some historical manuscript collections. I also serve as the accessions archivist and legislative records specialist, responsible for working with donors and legislators who transfer records to the state archives.
Why did you choose your profession?
I have always been interested in history; I also have a master’s in English, and I’d considered going back to get a PhD in one of those two subjects. However, after working at UT-Austin for a few years and taking a bibliography and textual studies class there with Professor Michael Winship that met at the Harry Ransom Center, I realized my calling was to work in archives to preserve records and make them accessible. So I went back to graduate school at the iSchool at UT. I’m kind of stunned that I hadn’t considered this career path earlier—I got my MSIS and first archivist job (this one!) at age 36.
What is your favorite document, photo, or artifact in TSLAC’s collection?
This is an impossible question! The two photo-engraved panoramic postcards showing the downtown square in Paris, Texas, taken after the devastating fire of 1916 are definitely special. These photos were displayed in TSLAC’s lobby gallery last year in the East Texas section of our exhibit, Wish You Were Here: Historic Postcards From Texas.
I’m from Paris, and I grew up seeing prints of these photos in people’s homes and offices; because of the fire, almost all of the buildings in our historic town center date to 1916 and still bear witness today—almost every one prominently declaring the year on its cornice or upper facade. Two of the four New Deal-funded murals by Paris native Jerry Bywaters on display in the Paris Public Library depict the fire and its aftermath. Memory of the event persists in Lamar County; last year, Paris commemorated the one hundredth anniversary of the fire.
When you’re not busy, what do you like to do for fun?
Since going back to school in 2013, I find I’m somehow always busy! In my “free” time, I’m usually watching soccer, especially Liverpool FC; studying Welsh, which I’ve been learning for the past nine months or so; cooking and trying new foods; walking or hiking, both around downtown and on Austin’s amazing trails; volunteering with the Junior League of Austin; planning my next trip; or, of course, reading—mostly nonfiction, especially history.