As a retired history professor and academic, I had numerous opportunities to work with primary source collections, and handled many rare and unusual documents in my research work. Over time, I became very interested in the processes behind the acquisition and care of rare books and special collections, so much so that I took early retirement as a professor and pursued a Master’s of Library and Information Science with a specialization in that area. I received the degree in August, 2016, and completed an internship at Cleveland State University that same year. I saw an opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps member in the West Virginia & Regional History Center (WV&RHC) at West Virginia University (WVU), applied for it, and was accepted into the program. I began the appointment at the end of August, 2019.
My major project at the Center was to work with the Dr. Emory Kemp Collection. Dr. Kemp, a noted engineer, architect and historian, was a member of the WVU History Department until his retirement. In 2016, he donated many items from his working life to the WV&RHC, including all of those related to the Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaelogy (IHTIA), which he founded and ran for a number of years. In addition, a series of oral interviews with Dr. Kemp that were conducted by Dr. Barb Howe, also an emerita professor of history at WVU, formed part of the collection.
In the fall of 2019, my primary objective was to complete the transcriptions from the oral histories, and to review the transcriptions previously done for any needed corrections/additions/deletions. Part of this work involved selecting a new transcription software program to be used in processing the transcriptions. Supervised by Jane LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, this project was finished by early 2020.
On December 19, 2019, Paula Martinelli, Director of Development for the WVU Libraries, arranged for me to meet Dr. Kemp and his wife, Janet, at their home. While Dr. Kemp was not in good health (he would pass away on January 20, 2020), we were able to have a nice conversation about his life’s work, and I was very happy to have had an opportunity to meet him.
Upon the completion of the transcriptions in early 2020, I began helping with the physical part of the collection: documents and maps that were part of the IHTIA archive. For the documents, I inspected and conserved them, labeled and listed them in a detailed Excel spreadsheet, and then transferred them into new archival boxes in anticipation of re-storage.
The IHTIA maps, which were created from the early 20th century forward, were of varying sizes, both in length and depth. Many of them were also in a fragile condition, and in need of repair. As an intern curator (again under the direction of Ms. LaBarbara), I checked their condition, described them for use as a finding aid on the library website, labeled them for cataloging, and rehoused them into new archival boxes in anticipation of re-storage. Unfortunately, the closure of the library due to the pandemic stopped the progress of this project, but I am hoping to get back to work on this again during the next program year.
Dr. Connie Evans served as the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member at the West Virginia & Regional History Center at West Virginia University during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 program years.
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