Archives Diving: Or, What I Did the Summer After Graduation

Hello MAPHers! I’m Sarah, MAPH ’16, and this summer I worked in a MAPH sponsored archiving internship at the Newberry Library.

For those of you who don’t know, the Newberry is a highly respected private research library north of the Loop. It’s non-circulating, so you can’t take any materials out with you, but if you have a driver’s license, a respect for books, and you want to learn, you can study just about any material in their collections that you’d like. The Newberry is a hub for genealogists and Midwestern studies, and its primary focus is in the humanities. It holds the Pullman records, big dance collections, and other fun things like the first Best Screenplay Oscar and Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Federalist Papers.

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[the Oscar and the Federalist papers]

I’ve been interning as an archives assistant in modern manuscripts, so I’m back in the stacks every day. My floor’s stacks smell spectacular because many of the volumes are leather-bound. My focus has been on a more recent collection: I’m helping process the MoMing Dance Collective’s papers.

MoMing was a dance collective and studio active in Chicago from 1974-1990. They were extremely avant-garde, focusing primarily on postmodern dance, performance art, and believe it or not, clowning.

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[mystic clown letterhead, clowning at Wrigley Stadium in 1977]

I like working in the archives because I never know what I’m going to run into on any given day. I have worked with tickets, financial records, performance files, press kits, photos and slides of performances (including the aforementioned clowns), and videos of classes and performances. Archiving takes a lot of patience, especially when you’re trying to reorder files in chronological order and you can’t find any dates, or when you know you’ve seen a performer in a photo before but can’t seem to find the related files. I’ve been sold on the job, though — I’m considering going back to school to get an MLIS degree so that I can do it full time.

If you’re interested in the Newberry, or in the MoMing Collection, come check us out! The Newberry is free and open to the public, and there will be a presentation on MoMing and the other dance files processed recently at a colloquium at the Newberry at 4 PM on August 31. Hope to see you there.

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       [vhs of a dance performance, description of the cat waltz]

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