Post 2 — How I’ve Learned at the Jazz Museum

So far, I have found enjoyment in unexpected avenues working in both the New Orleans Jazz Museum and the Louisiana Historical Center (LHC). I have been rewarded for many of the skills and behaviors I have built during my academic life, but these rewards are typically for skills I have discounted.

For instance, in my work in the LHC, I primarily work on data entry related to map collection. Surprisingly, I believe my time working with historical documents and writing papers has made me significantly better at finding and correcting discrepancies between finding aids, labels, and the maps these tools are meant to help researchers navigate. Although history is not the field most associated with spreadsheets, the ability to efficiently scan and prioritize the right portions of maps and their associated text has been invaluable.

Within the Museum, I have been primarily writing marketing material and collating important copy related to the Museum. Although I typically use these skills to decide what portion of an 18th-century French diary is useful for my paper, the same ability is valuable when treating Jazz Museum reports as source texts. It is gratifying to see these skills transferring, even if it’s not the same kind of academic writing as my student life.

An example of a map that I’m currently marking for deaccession. This map is part of a large collection of maps related to the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878. This raises an interesting question when deaccessioning: Do I keep this collection of maps together due to their subject matter or do I separate them due to the LHC’s geographic focus?- Image credit to the LHC

Overall, I am very pleased with my work at the Museum even if it was not precisely what I expected. I came into this job with a hazy idea of what the backroom work of a museum looked like, and through my own work as well as attending meetings on development, exhibits, and marketing, I’ve widened my understanding.

Although my work in the archives has been enjoyable, I complete the same tasks over my days. Because of this, I am interested in exploring diverse kinds of archival work in addition to the kind of work I have already completed. How might I directly engage with researchers? How do archives go about searching for and acquiring new items? This internship serves as a great foot in the door to begin finding avenues to some answers to these questions.

Above all else, communicating clearly and concisely has been integral to this internship. Even though I may only spend 10 minutes a day checking in with my superiors or writing emails, this internship has lifted the importance of logistics in my eyes. To begin any project, you do not need a long meeting, but you need that meeting to be well planned. If I were to sum this skill up as a lesson, I would say that even if you only send a two-sentence long email, the 20 seconds it takes to write that email can advance your projects more than hours of work if you send it to the right person at the right time.

In the archives, I have had to devise systems to ensure I log information about maps efficiently, and I’ve found the process of grappling with organizational systems surprisingly interesting. I have improved a lot at using different sort functions on Excel to best cross-reference my new inventory with past finding aids.

Since I also primarily work by myself within the archives, I have had a lot of time to feel out my own workflow and regulate my time. I have kept a lot better track of my productivity in terms of maps logged vs. time spent, and I think improving time management and awareness is useful in all professional capacities. The first step in addressing problems in my academic workflow, my focus while reading, or administrative work for my e-board is setting a standard by which I can evaluate my performance.