Former Messiah College History major Thomas DeShong (class of 2010) is currently working at the Texas Collection at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Tommy just finished his M.A. in history at Baylor and is currently pursuing certification as an archivist. In this article he talks about some of the day-to-day duties involved in this kind of public history work. Here is a taste:
When I arrived at Baylor University to further my education, I was largely unfamiliar with the world of archives. As a student of history, I realized that such repositories typically held interesting primary sources just waiting to be cited in the end-of-semester research paper that was inevitably due for each class. However, I was not aware of the multifaceted roles that archivists and librarians perform in order to preserve such history until I found myself with a graduate assistantship at The Texas Collection. Two years later, I am here celebrating the 90th anniversary of the institution while studying to become a certified archivist.
There are three primary tasks that I perform as an Archival Assistant–Digital Input Specialist at The Texas Collection. The first, which I have enjoyed the most, is processing. Once printed materials have been donated or purchased, it is important to preserve the original documents in the most efficient and effective manner. Papers need to be stored in acid-free folders. Photographs should be housed in clear, Mylar sleeves. Newspaper clippings might be preserved more easily through digitization. Finding aids need to be written so that the public can know about the valuable materials waiting to be researched. The act of preserving history is fulfilling and exhilarating. The Texas Collection, as its name suggests, houses materials pertaining to Texas history from the Spanish colonial era to the present day. My time here has allowed me to explore collections dealing with Texas governors, the Civil War, Baylor University presidents, missionaries, history professors, inventors, and even the Waco Branch Davidians.
In addition to his work as an archivist, rumor has it that Tommy just got engaged. Congratulations!