Notes From The Workfront: FSU History Alumnus Adam Hunt (MA 2020)

Adam Hunt

I graduated with an M.A. in Public History in the Spring of 2020 and am currently working in FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives based in the Claude Pepper Library. While my office is there, my job allows me to work across the Special Collections division broadly with the different collections, rare books, and artifacts that we steward.

I initially pursued a degree specializing in Early Modern French History. While I was completing my coursework, I worked in Special Collections with the Reichelt Oral History Collection and the French Revolution & Napoleon Collection. Somewhere along the way, I realized I wanted to be an archivist, so I made the switch to Public History. During my Internship with Special Collections, I worked with records of enslavement and Jim Crow in Tallahassee and the Big Bend region. The Claude Pepper Library is the repository for collections that document Florida Politics, and in my daily work now, I try to excavate and highlight material contextualizing Civil Rights. My favorite part of working in an archive is getting to work with each of these subjects and time periods, contributing to the continuing preservation and accessibility of the records.

I started my job seven months ago shortly after campus vacated due to the pandemic. Despite not being able to work on-site as normal, we’ve been able to switch many of our services online. A portion of my job involves assisting with the management of our finding aids database, ArchivesSpace. Previously ongoing projects to update collection finding aids and assess space lent themselves nicely to remote work. While I don’t physically sit on the reference desk at the moment, I still help to provide access to our collections by making digital reproductions and answering reference questions over email. When FSU switched to virtual instruction over Zoom, so did we. I’ve assisted with and co-facilitated several instruction visits this semester over Zoom. As the libraries began to reopen, I started to work more on-site because there are aspects that I can’t fulfill remotely like preserving and processing collections, checking for pests, or monitoring storage climates.

History has really influenced how I approach my work. Historiography has been an invaluable tool for me when it comes to reference. Understanding the types of records and collections that historians or genealogists have previously used to broach a question could be the key to connecting a visitor with the record(s) that they need. However, I’ve learned that that can also be a double-edged sword because pointing to the same collections continuously could mean overlooking other collections with important material that might not be as immediately apparent. Similarly, having specific subject knowledge has helped me with archival description and metadata creation. Understanding the historical context of the creator, events, or actions documented by a record contributes to accurate description and helps visitors find what they’re looking for when they search a database.

An ongoing challenge for me has been understanding and working on reducing barriers to access. Access for a visitor in a holistic sense can depend on many factors: Copyright, restrictions, procedures, the physical layout of a space, and even how material is described. Copyright is something I continue to ask for help with. Providing digital reproductions has been a way to continue providing access during our switch to remote services. It’s important to understand and communicate the rights status of material to somebody requesting copies so that they can make informed decisions about their use if we’re able to provide them. Regardless of fair use, libraries and archives can operate with certain exemptions under Section 108 which add another layer to consider.

Want to find out what Special Collections has been up to? Check out our blog, Illuminations: https://fsuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/

Do you have any questions for us, need access to material, or are considering a visit for your class in Spring or the future? Reach out to us at lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu.