Q and A with SAA’s Newly Elected Brittany Newberry

Today we are featuring Brittany Newberry, SGA member and current Archivist of Popular Music and Culture at Georgia State University. She has been recently elected to the Society of American Archivists Nominating Committee. She has served as SGA Communications Director and Assistant, Outreach Manager and Assistant, and was on SGA’s nominating committee. She has held positions in SAA’s Archivists and Archives of Color section steering committee, SAA’s Membership Committee and Career Development Subcommittee. What better way to learn about leadership in archives than from Brittany who is on a pursuit to uplift our profession.

When and why did you start working in archives?

I started working in archives when I was a freshman in college. I needed a work study job and knew I wanted to work in the university library. When meeting with the administrator to decide which department I would like to work in, I saw the option for rare books. I have been interested in history all my life and I love books and reading. I am one of those people who thinks books have a great smell, well when not water damaged haha. So I chose the Rare Books department to be able to be around the historical, rare first editions, and autographed books. The department was actually a part of Special Collections and would all be named Special Collections and Archives by the time I was a sophomore. I spent the first year working on creating book enclosures for fragile books and working on a collection of an early 20th century American missionary in China who sent handwritten letters to family. I enjoyed the work so much and it didn’t hurt that the reading room looked like it was from Harry Potter. I continued to work there all four years of college. During my time, I was able to process collections, do preservation work, and in-person reference. By my junior year, I was still undecided on my career path, so I spoke with my supervisor and the dean of the library to get some feedback on if I should attend library school and where. I decided to apply, I went to Simmons College in Boston, did my concentration in archives management, and have not regretted one second of the time I spent being in, learning about, and working in archives.

What or who encouraged you to join the Society of Georgia Archivists and Society of American Archivists?

I joined the Society of American Archivists during my first year of graduate school. Professors and classmates talking about the benefits was why I joined. But I didn’t really get involved with sections and committees until after I began my first professional job.

I joined the Society of Georgia Archivists the month after I started my first professional job. My coworkers encouraged me to do so. They told me it would be a great experience and the people are great. FYI, they’re right!

Why did you pursue leadership positions within SGA and SAA?

If you know me, you know I have a hard time saying no and that I have to stay busy. A coworker at my first professional job asked me to be her Assistant Outreach Manager in SGA. I said yes and then after meeting the people and attending the annual meeting, I just kept wanting to volunteer for positions. 

In regards to SAA, they had a program for new professionals and students to be interns for various sections and committees. I volunteered to be an intern for the Archivists and Archives of Color section to learn more about the work of the section. It was a great experience and led me to volunteer to be on the steering committee and volunteer to be on other committees in SAA.

I volunteered to run for SAA’s Nominating Committee because I was asked and I thought it would be a great way for me to give back to the organization and the profession.

How have your roles in SGA and other organizations helped shape you as an archivist?

The leadership roles I have taken on have helped me to be more confident in my abilities as an archivist and as a leader. I used to and still sometimes have imposter syndrome, but when I get asked to take on a leadership role, I know I am doing something right. I am willing to take on new challenges and learn new skills to better myself as a professional. I didn’t think this would be what I would be doing as an archivist. I was content just processing collections. But these roles have helped me to want and achieve more. I have also met great people and made great connections.

What are some key characteristics that you think are important to good leadership?

The willingness to try and try new things and new ideas, to me, is one of the key characteristics of a good leader. And listen. Great leaders need to be able to listen to those around them and understand that even if they don’t have the answer or next great idea that they can figure out who does and how to best support the team.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role on SAA’s Nominating Committee?

SAA’s nominating committee is tasked with finding candidates to fill significant roles in SAA. I think just being able to help recruit the potential leaders is something I am definitely looking forward to. I am looking forward to being able to share my perspective and recommend the great archivists that I know and/or have heard about.

Thank you to Brittany for participating in our interview. If you wish to be a part of SGA leadership, reach out to our nominating committee at nominating@soga.org.

Atlanta History Center Making Women’s History Accessible

As Atlanta History Center works to make history available and accessible to all, a key component is women’s history. In 2020, Atlanta History Center archivists created detailed inventories for 16 archival collections that focus on women’s history in Atlanta. The photographs and historical documents in the collections help tell the stories of women civic leaders, activists, photojournalists, and entrepreneurs. This initiative is made possible by Emily Bourne Grigsby whose bequest endows support for the research, interpretation, and presentation of the role of women in the South. Grigsby was a multi-talented philanthropist from Atlanta, who’s donation established the Emily Bourne Grigsby Fund for Women’s History.

Portrait of Emily Bourne Grigsby (1922-2020) modeling. Grigsby worked as a runway and print model for department stores for 15 years. She was also an opera singer for the San Francisco Opera and prolific artist and arts advocate. She later practiced as an arbitrator for the National Association of Securities Directors (NASD) and as a mediator for the Justice Center of Atlanta. Emily Bourne Grigsby visual arts materials, VIS 391, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

The 16 archival collections now available to the public because of the Grigsby Women’s History Fund include the following:

Suzanne Anderson Photographs

Atlanta Tomboys Documents

Atlanta Women’s Network Records

Lucinda Bunnen Photographs

Maria Helena Dolan Papers

Sally Fanny Gleaton Papers

Yolande Copley Gwin Visual Arts Materials

Emily Bourne Grigsby Visual Arts Materials

Florence Inman Photographs

Lochrane and Reid Family Papers

Chris Mastin Photographs of Protest Marches

Roan Family Papers

Leila Ross Wilburn Visual Arts Material

Darlene Roth Papers

Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta Visual Arts Materials

Cathy Woolard Papers

Along with her accomplishments as a model, opera singer, and arbitrator, Emily Bourne Grigsby (1922-2020) was also a licensed pilot. Pictured here is Grigsby with an unidentified man and child before take-off. Emily Bourne Grigsby visual arts materials, VIS 391, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

Explore more about the Emily Bourne Grigsby Fund for Women’s History here https://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/learning-research/projects-initiatives/womens-work/

Submitted by Kate Daly, Visual Culture Archivist, Atlanta History Center

VSU’s Women’s Suffrage Program Grant brings History to Students

Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections have partnered with the Odum Library and teaching faculty to bring a 5-session book program on Women’s Suffrage to Valdosta, funded from an American Library Association grant. The Archives will be providing meeting space, refreshments, and a display on Women’s Suffrage in Georgia. The “Let’s Talk About It: Women’s Suffrage” project at VSU will kick off on March 10 and continue over a series of 10 weeks, discussing five books.

Learn more from the blog post here: https://www.valdosta.edu/about/news/releases/2022/02/vsu-wins-american-library-association-grant-for-womens-suffrage-project.php .

Submitted by Deborah Davis, Director, Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections

SGA’s Carroll Hart Scholarship Now Accepting Applications

Application deadline: March 8, 2022

The Society of Georgia Archivists is now accepting applications for the Carroll Hart Scholarship to attend the 2022 Georgia Archives Institute. As of now, the Institute will be held in person, from June 6-17, 2022. It will be held in Morrow, GA and is a two week immersive introduction to archival scholarship, with hands-on training and insight from renown archivists.

To learn more and find the application visit our website, https://soga.wildapricot.org/scholarships/hart. Send questions and applications to scholarships@soga.org.


APPLY TODAY!

SGA 2021 Annual Meeting Recordings Available Now

The recordings of the 2021 SGA Annual Meeting are now available to view online! If you were unable to attend the conference live or missed a session you really wanted to attend, we invite you to view the playlist of presentations on SGA’s YouTube.

The presentations are unlisted, so you cannot access them by visiting our page or searching for them on YouTube. They are only viewable through this link, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLH2n1apWPCoP98qJads742hVdd2Gt0dXm

While you are on the playlist be sure to subscribe to our channel!

Georgia Archives Institute 2022: New Professionals Education Opportunity

GAI is now accepting applications

The online application for the 2022 Georgia Archives Institute is now live! https://www.georgiaarchivesinstitute.org/application-2022

June 6-17, 2022 is the projected date for the Georgia Archives Institute. As of this writing, they plan on having the Institute in person. They will of course monitor the changing health concerns.

The Institute will be held at the Georgia Archives, located in Morrow, GA, just outside Atlanta. Classroom instruction will take place the first week, June 6 through June 10 and also on Monday, June 13. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday June 14-16 will be an on-site internship at a local institution, where you can ask all the questions you want and put your classroom instruction to good use. Friday, June 17 will be a wrap-up day, held back at the Georgia Archives.

Be sure to check out the scholarship opportunities available to students. Details can be found here https://www.georgiaarchivesinstitute.org/support.

If you would like a practical course in archives, make a note on your calendar today and stay tuned to their website https://www.georgiaarchivesinstitute.org/, and Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/georgiaarchivesinstitute.

History of GAI

The Georgia Archives Institute was founded in 1967 by Carroll Hart, Director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History (1964-1982). Lacking the funds to send staff to the National Archives Institute in Washington, D.C., Ms. Hart brought in prominent archivists to teach archival theory and the role of the modern archivist. She saw the need for basic instruction for beginners in the profession. At first the program was intended for the Georgia Archives staff, but it was soon expanded to include attendees from other institutions. The first official session was in August of 1967, with students traveling around the state visiting repositories, courthouses, and other institutions’ housing records.

Today, the Georgia Archives Institute is recognized throughout the archival community as one of the primary vehicles through which beginning archivists and students can learn theoretical and practical knowledge of modern archives.

DEADLINE TO SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION IS MARCH 15, 2022 https://www.georgiaarchivesinstitute.org/application-2022

Saving African American genealogy programs

By Jill Sweetapple, SGA Blog Contributor and Archival Assistant at the Delta Flight Museum

Tamika Strong, Reference Archivist at the Georgia Archives in Morrow, took on a big challenge and created a program that has won a Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council (GHRAC) award. Time to find out more!

What spurred this idea in the first place, can you remember?
A chance reading of an article in Georgia Library Quarterly written in 2009 by Dottie Demarest, former genealogy and local history librarian at the East Central Georgia Regional Library System which is now Augusta-Richmond County Public Library. In the article, Ms. Demarest talked about the funeral program collection at the library. After reading it, I thought that if Augusta could do it, so could Atlanta. So I started thinking about how to get the programs and where would they be housed.

Did you talk to the other project’s “inventors” or did you jump right in?
I just jumped right in. I didn’t think to reach out to Ms. Demarest. I just figured it out on my own. The goal was to collect the programs, index them and then donate them to the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Once I had the goal in mind, I shared my idea with the members of the Wesley Chapel Genealogy Group and they liked the idea. I also approached the then president of the Metro Atlanta Chapter of AAHGS, Gene Stephens, who was also on board. Auburn Avenue was the only institution I considered as a permanent home for the collection and thankfully, the Archivist at the time, Kerrie Cotten Williams, was accepting of the collection.

Did you have programs ready to go or did a collection elsewhere inspire you?
Our collection was inspired by the collection at Augusta-Richmond, that had been digitized on DLG. We didn’t have any programs ready, so through word of mouth, we began to receive donations of programs. We are still collecting and processing them. Hopefully, the programs we are collecting now will eventually be added to the Atlanta Funeral Programs Collection on DLG.

Did you have to solicit anyone to include their collections, or did a percentage donate once they heard about the project?
All of the programs were donated by members of the Wesley Chapel Genealogy Group and the Metro Atlanta Chapter of AAHGS. Some members reached out to family members, friends, funeral homes, and cemeteries and were able to get programs from them.

How did you “advertise” to get interest and donations?
Mostly word of mouth through members of the groups, but I remember creating a bookmark and would share that bookmark with attendees of workshops I taught several years ago.

How important were your genealogical ties in growing the project?
Our genealogical ties were the driving force behind the project. The obituaries contained in funeral programs are, in many cases, the only biographical sketch an individual will ever have. In the African American community, funeral programs are collected and, in some cases, treated as heirlooms. When the collector of these documents dies, unfortunately, these documents are among the papers thrown away, especially if the deceased are not members of the family. We wanted to provide a way to preserve these records because as genealogists tracing African American ancestry, we know how difficult it can be to uncover information. Though the information contained in the obituaries may not always be correct, it is a starting point for someone tracing their family’s history. Many of my fellow genealogists are having to start from scratch and it is our hope that this collection and others like it will help provide a foundation on which future researchers can begin the journey of tracing their family’s history.

If someone wanted to do a similar project, what first couple of steps would you suggest?
I would suggest they check to see if there is another project like it in their area first. If there is not, they may want to identify and speak with a repository to see if it is a collection they would be interested in receiving. The collection criteria for our project only had one restriction, the deceased had to be African American. Auburn Avenue Research Library was selected in part because they collect materials from around the world. Someone interested in doing a project such as this will have to make sure that the programs fall within the collection policy of the institution. Once they have a home, then they can work on collecting the programs. Word of mouth and some publicity at workshops worked well for us. They may be able to expand that in other ways. The goal was the index the programs before donating them to the institution so that the institution wouldn’t have more work added to their workload. Additionally, you may want to work with the institution to identify and possibly purchase supplies, archival safe boxes, folders, etc. to house the collection so that it will not become a financial drain for the institution. Grants may help to supplement this need. Work with the institution on deciding how to organize the collection, whether each program will have its own folder or if they will be grouped alphabetically. Depending on the size of the project, you may have to get volunteers to assist with the project. Once the foundation is laid and a process established, you can focus on collecting the programs.

Tell me a bit about your new GHRAC award!
Angela Stanley, the Director of Archival Services & Digital Initiatives at Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS), who was instrumental in getting the collection digitized, submitted the nomination and we were fortunate to be one of the recipients of the award. It never crossed my mind that this project would one day be honored with a state-wide award like GHRAC. It goes to show you never know. Though my name is listed on the award, the honor is shared with everyone who made contributions to the success of the project. I am grateful for the recognition and thankful to all the partners, especially the Wesley Chapel Genealogy Group, AAHGS Metro Atlanta Chapter, Derek Mosley and the archival staff at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, Angela Stanley and GPLS, and the Digital Library of Georgia for all of their work on making this project the success that it is.

The Archives of Black Women Artists (Part One), featuring Sierra King

By Anicka Austin, SGA Blog Contributor and Visiting Archivist for the Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers
Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book library

Earlier this year, Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences offered eight artists studio residencies at its Cross-Pollination Art Lab. The Hambidge Center regularly provides residencies on its 600-acre sanctuary in North Georgia and naturally has strong ties to Atlanta through the artists who live in the city and the Center’s donors.

Two of the artists, Jasmine Williams and Sierra King, used their time at the Lab focused on collaborative artmaking and exploring “the concept of archiving in real-time.” They worked parallel to each other, and King documented Williams’ creative process. King also installed “THROUGHLINE”, a physical timeline showing the intersections of their relationship from when their parents met to more recent projects like Williams’ Adult Swim Mural.

Photos of Jasmine Williams and Sierra King

The artists, no strangers to working together, began their parallel journey in middle school.

King: 

While we haven’t always been “Artists”, we have always been friends. Passing notes to each other in the hallway, connecting online at the beginning ages of social media and running into each other at music events. As both of our practices grew, we spent a lot of time in the studio together up until 2019.

Jasmine Williams, photographed by Sierra King

King is an archivist. Initially, her archival work of Black women artists began as an exploration in validation. For Black artists, having our work “validated” by its inclusion in an institution’s archival collection seems to be a step forward. She pushes back on that narrative now, saying, “there’s enough value in our work inherently. It doesn’t have to be validated by an institution.” There are many pivotal events or people in history who are not recognized on an institutional level. In our phone conversation, she uses the example of political actions, like protests, saying, “There are hundreds of thousands of Black people behind the front lines. Everyone has a story that deserves to be told.”

King’s archival history began with her family.

King:

I like to say that my first experience with the archives as a child was when I walked into my Grandmother’s living room. The walls were covered floor to ceiling with photographs of family, friends and babies that she had taken care of and watched grow up. While it wasn’t a formal institution, I look back on that memory as one that always required me to think deeply about the history of who my people were and our narratives.

King’s Grandfather, Horace Walter Stephens Jr., was one of the only African-American boy scout troop leaders in Atlanta in the 1970s and 1980s. He took troops around the world to locations where Buffalo Soldiers traveled, including Alaska and Ghana.  Sierra and her family are in the appraisal process with her Grandfather’s belongings which include sports memorabilia, rare books, Ebony and Jet magazines, and a collection of Black Barbies.

King says, “the beauty of personal archives is that you still live with them.”

Sierra King, age 7 or 8, with Barbie collection

Her words remind me of an Archiving the Black Web National Forum session that featured archivists’ web-based storytelling practices. Camille Lawrence, founder of Black Beauty Archives and one of the panelists, used the example of curating exhibitions in barber shops and beauty salons to underscore the importance of context when displaying archival material. The salon, as a cultural heritage institution, puts the material in the hands of those who directly relate to it. Additionally, environmental context illuminates nuances, allowing for greater understanding of the culture by those who are being introduced to it for the first time.

King:

 I was able to recognize that it [archival work] was something that I have been doing as a photographer all along. I was documenting Black Women Artists, like Jasmine in the Atlanta arts community as I went to exhibitions, studio visits and just creating relationships with them…. I learned that while documenting the practice is important, creating a trusting relationship to be present to document the more private moments is even more invaluable.

King’s creative process as a photographer has influenced her archival work. Part of her ethos in documenting the world around her comes from a desire to go out and life a full life, to create relationships and moments that nourish her. Shifting between mediums allows her to bring those living conversations into her work. She highlights her experiences and experiences of those around her through essays and curating exhibitions. She asks of viewers of the work, “Do you have any memories entangled in this? Do you see yourself in this history?”

Top: Sierra King, archival installation; Bottom: Sierra King, Mint Gallery installation

Within this is the drive towards sharing information about archival processes with Black women artists.

King: 

My mission for documenting, preserving and archiving the livelihoods of Black Women Artists has evolved and expanded. It is centered on providing them with the tools, knowledge and resources so that they can protect not only their personal narrative but also their career narrative. 

It has allowed me to also evolve and expand as an artist. It has informed where I want to take my own artistic practice and has me actively thinking about how I want to shape and present my narrative to the world. Most importantly it has allowed me to stand firm to say, “This is what my work as an archival installation / veneration / remembrance looks like.” 

I think the mission is something that archivists have always been striving towards and is received well because I am emphasizing that Black Women Artists be proactive and active in their archival processes while they are able to make the necessary choices.

Personal archives are at the heart of King’s work, even when the collection is donated to an institution. In 2017, King worked with Leigh Raiford and a project team on Kathleen Cleavers papers, which are now part of Rose Library collections.

Photos from Kathleen Cleaver papers, process photographed by Sierra King

King continues to reflect deeply on the role of archives in the lives of Black women artists. She was awarded the National Black Arts Festival Micro Grant, which she will use to continue to document Black women artists. She is currently working with Rosa Duffy at For Keeps! Black and Rare Classic Books designing an archival residency that will allow her time and space to take inventory and showcase some smaller archival installations. She will also be returning to the Hambidge Center in November for a creative residency, where she is looking to install one of her largest installations to date.For an example of her curatorial work, you can find documentation of Here. There. Everywhere, an exhibition King curated for Mint Gallery in 2020 on Google Arts and Culture Atlanta: Bold and Beautiful.

A busy pandemic for the Portman Archives

by Jill Sweetapple, SGA Blog Contributor

Westin Peachtree Plaza; ca.1976
© 1976 Alexandre Georges courtesy of the Portman Archives Interior of the Westin Peachtree Plaza by John C. Portman, Jr. with Olga De Amaral’s commissioned work, ‘El Gran Muro’, hanging within the central atrium.

Tell us a bit about the Portman Archive, for those who may not know about it.
The Portman Archives is the repository for the architectural and artistic contributions of John C. Portman, Jr. serving to promote and preserve his architectural philosophy and legacy. We are centrally located in the heart of Peachtree Center, one of his lasting contributions to the architecture of downtown Atlanta. The Portman Archives act to provide resources for research, digitization, and circulation of information and assets from our collections, internally, locally, and internationally.

What is your staffing, are you a lone arranger or are you a team?
Here at the Portman Archives, we are a team of three, directed by the leadership of the Portman Foundation. In addition to myself, the visual materials archivist, there are two other wonderful archivists, Becca Brown and Katie Twomey.

What kinds of collections do you have in your archive?
Our collections include architectural drawings, paintings, sculptures, artifacts, photographic materials, and marketing materials all related to Mr. Portman’s career as an architect and developer.

What were some of the changes in your job due to the pandemic and lockdown, and how did these changes reveal new opportunities?
During the pandemic we shifted our focus to digital projects, while also using the time away from our physical assets as an opportunity to revamp our archival policies and procedures. During this initiative, we streamlined our mission statement and collection policy and began working on a collaborative deaccession project that focuses on reducing our physical footprint, while ensuring retention and expansion of our digital collections. This exercise has been both challenging and rewarding!

My favorite example from our deaccession project has been working to rehome a beautiful set of Olga De Amaral weavings titled, ‘El Gran Muro’ that were commissioned by Mr. Portman in the 1970s to hang in the central atrium of the Westin Peachtree Plaza. While these weavings help to tell the story of Mr. Portman’s Westin Peachtree Plaza, we have come to realize that keeping the physical items is outside of our collection policy due to their scale and our inability to display them, especially with our move to smaller square footage on the horizon.

While the pandemic certainly made it more of a challenge to handle and show the weavings in-person to interested institutions, our deaccessioning initiative has really proven to create a new and exciting opportunity to build relationships with institutions who share our goal of making these assets accessible and able to be enjoyed by the public once again!

What prompted your move?
Our move represents a new direction for the Portman Archive as we aim to be more outward facing in our promotion of Mr. Portman’s legacy. Our new space will also position us closer to our sister companies within the Portman Companies so that we can collaborate more efficiently. We are excited about what the future holds for The Portman Archives and look forward to sharing with SGA in the future. If interested, please visit our website at www.portmanarchives.com!

Celebrating Georgia Archives Month with The Case of the College Sweetheart

By Autumn Johnson, Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University Special Collections continues its tradition of celebrating Georgia Archives Month with another exciting game experience for their campus community. This year’s The Case of the College Sweetheart is an immersive mystery game in which players must examine historical evidence and digital clues to solve the forgotten mysteries of Georgia Southern’s “Sweetheart” Campus. The game offers players an opportunity to engage with archival primary sources that document the historic area of campus in a fun and engaging way. The program builds upon the success of their 2019 Secrets, Sources, and Swamp face-to-face escape room but in a safer, semi-virtual environment that allows players to socially distance themselves.

The Game
Case of the College Sweetheart mystery game sets are available for checkout at the library checkout desk. A welcome letter included in the set introduces players to a fictitious, but real-world scenario that includes a series of interconnected puzzles. Working individually or in small groups, participants have a two-hour checkout window to examine physical game materials including archival documents, private correspondence, and campus memorabilia to help solve seven interconnected puzzles. Access to digital clues and puzzle prompts are available through the online game portal at georgiasouthern.libguides.com/sweetheart. The mystery is revealed to players by solving the final clue. Participants who successfully complete the game are eligible to enter a grand prize drawing.

The program will be available throughout October and is partially funded by the 2020 Georgia Archives Month Spotlight on Archives Grant.