The seasonal rhythms of academic life move ever forward in their traditional regularity. This in spite of the seemingly ever accelerating pace of life in our digital world. For us at the Albert Gore Research Center this means that summer is a time for long awaited vacations and catching up on our work. Absent our usual cadre of graduate assistants—who have moved on to post-graduate employment, internships, or other excitement—and undergraduate student workers, the place is a lot quieter in the summer. But not dead by any means.
This summer for instance we welcome Matt Norwood, a master’s student in public history, as the latest intern in our partnership with MTSU’s aerospace department. Matt has been diligently continuing to bring order to the archival collections of the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame housed in the business and aerospace building on campus. Meanwhile, we are happy to have Dr. Paul Lubotina, history faculty member, on board as he completes an archival practicum toward his certificate in archival management. Paul has processed the MTSU Holocaust Studies records and is now pitched fully into processing the papers of Dr. David Rowe, recently retired history faculty member. And thanks to the continuing generosity of former congressman Bart Gordon, we are able to employ Tress Hampton, a former undergraduate student worker and now MTSU graduate student, to move forward the processing of the Gordon papers. Tress is skillfully converting sundry VHS tapes and other recorded media into digital formats and logging the programs so that we can add them to the online finding aid.
As for the professional staff, summer allows us to review work done by students during the school year and to devote time to projects that would otherwise be difficult. Jim Havron, archivist and coordinator of oral history projects, is interviewing several veterans while also completing the finishing touches on several finding aids completed by graduate assistants earlier this year. Likewise, Donna Baker, university archivist, is tidying up many details on several finding aids for university collections that we are excited to add to the center’s web site, all the while supervising Matt and Paul’s work (and lots of other things). Kent Syler, special projects coordinator, is technically off in the summer but has graciously continued his dogged search for campaign songs to add to our online exhibit on the history of political songs in Tennessee. He delighted us this week with three versions of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man” that Wynette adapted in support of Tom Wiseman’s campaign for governor in 1974. They’re a hoot! Take a listen on our web site by clicking on the exhibits and resources tab.
You’ll likely hear from all these folks on the blog later this summer, so check back for more summer updates from our very busy and interesting staff and interns.
As for the director, I get to juggle the usual things in summer, such as closing out the fiscal year and projecting ahead for expenditures and projects in the new academic year while trying to squeeze in some research now and then. (On a recent trip to Kansas City I tracked down one of the missing recipes for the book I have been working on for too long called Eating with the Trumans: Recipes, Menus, and the Politics of Food.) I will be teaching a new course for me in the fall, our graduate seminar in the administration of historical organizations, so will be working on preparation for that. I’m pleased to welcome a delegation of archivists from the Alabama and Tennessee state archives next month. They are traveling to campus to view and discuss the data interface that we have developed largely through the work of some very talented and patient members of the information technology staff at MTSU. This interface allows researchers access to the constituent correspondence and casework files from Bart Gordon’s congressional office that were captured in a product called Intranet Quorum (IQ), subject to privacy restrictions. I will also demonstrate the interface in August at a meeting of the Congressional Papers Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists at the annual meeting in Washington, D.C. It will be a treat to discuss congressional papers in the Capitol Visitors Center!
So, as you can see, summer allows us to take some deep breaths and have more quiet moments than usual (and vacation time, too), but we continue apace to make our collections ever more accessible online and otherwise while providing public services to researchers far and wide. Yes, we’re open in the summer, so stop by and see us! We’re always happy to show off our collections to the MTSU community and the public.
Dr. Jim Williams, director and professor of history