How and why did you get involved as an AWE Fund Organizer?
In early April, I read on an SAA email list that they were looking for volunteers. I was nearing the end of a two-year contract and I was already receiving emails from places where I had applied for other jobs, letting me know that they had suspended their searches or frozen hiring. The AWE Fund seemed like a good way to help other people in similar situations, and to feel a little less powerless in the face of the pandemic. My own employment worries have been resolved for now, but I know many people are not so lucky – I hope the AWE Fund can help as many of my fellow archival workers as possible weather the pandemic’s effects.
What is one cultural shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?
When people try to think how to respond to future crises or disasters, I hope they value strategies that include helping others and asking for help, rather than assuming that everyone must go it alone.
What is one public policy shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?
I’d like to see those who were declared essential workers – especially those like grocery store employees and home health workers, who often don’t get paid much – given greater respect and fairer compensation. Ditto for those who work customer/public service or hourly jobs that put them into greater contact with the public, as more workplaces reopen.
What’s an archival item you’ve worked with that you love to share with people, and why?
Honestly, I don’t have a favorite item so much as a favorite patron reaction: getting to see the moment when documents help a researcher realize that the past was different/more diverse/stranger/happier/sadder/more complicated than they thought. One of the best things I discovered while processing a collection, though, has to be a Darth Vader action figure with a tiny image of the donor’s face pasted onto Vader’s. (Presumably it was a gag gift from one of his – many – critics).
What’s one thing — archives related or not! — that you’re proud to have created or accomplished?
I am proud of (and grateful for!) the friendships I’ve made and sustained. That goes for both friendships with other archivists and friendships with non-archivists who are willing to listen to me talk about primary source literacy for longer than is reasonable.
Sarah McLusky is the Project Archivist for Reference and Academic Programs at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library.