Thursday, September 18, 2008

our archivists--new and "old"

Introducing Marcia Bassett, the Barnard library's new Archivist, and Astrid Cravens, our Image Archivist. Astrid has been here a year or two, but since she works in the basement, I assume very few of us have had a chance to get to know her at all. So, following are brief bios of each and short interviews.

Marcia Bassett
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Tyler School Art. In 1999, I graduated from Drexel University with a MS (Information Science and Technology). While in living in Philadelphia, I worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Museum Library and Archives. I moved to New York City after receiving my graduate degree to work as a Project Archivist, processing the Grace M. Mayer Papers, at MoMA. Since that time, I have worked on multiple archival projects—from processing personal papers and corporate records, cataloging and rehousing prints and photographs to managing the implementation of archival policies and procedures in repositories. Over a period of four years, I worked on a variety of archival projects at the Frick Art Reference Library, completing my last project with them in July of 2007. Prior to coming to Barnard, I cataloged a collection of Works Progress Administration (WPA) prints at the Queens Library Gallery.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time outdoors. I have a small potted roof garden at my apartment in Brooklyn. I grow a few edible vegetables and a variety of herbs and flowers. I also have two composting containers. When I get the chance, I like to escape the city. My most recent trip was to the Berkshires, where I hiked on the Appalachian Trail and visited MASS MoCA. I also enjoy playing guitar and seeing new and improvised music in the city. The last show I went to was at Glasslands featuring the Garcia / Biba Bell Duo with the trio of C. Spencer Yeh -violin, voice, electronics, Don Dietrich -saxophone, electronics and Ben Hall-percussion, and the duo of Carlos Giffoni-synthesizer and Okkyung Lee -cello.

Astrid Cravens
I studied photography and film at Hampshire college. After college I moved back and forth between New York and San Francisco where I spent a number of years restoring, transferring and digitizing archival films, photographs and videos at a small film transfer house. During this time I also worked as a stop motion animator. I relocated back to New York--my home town-- about four years ago. I live in Brooklyn, where I have another job as a visual artist.

Care to assess the Barnard Archives and Special Collections?
MB: The Barnard College Archives was founded in 1963 as the permanent repository for the records of the College from the 1880's to the present day. The Archives holds over 1,000 linear feet of unpublished manuscript materials relating to the history of the higher education of women. The unpublished items include official non-current records of the College, and papers of individuals associated with. The Archives also has a sizable visual materials collection, which includes over ten thousand negatives and prints; one hundred lantern slides; several thousand color slides; numerous films; framed artworks and three-dimensional artifacts; and architectural drawings, posters, and prints. The audiotape collection includes speeches, lectures, and radio programs dating from the 1930's to the present.

: We have a marvelous collection of photographs here in the Archives.

Are there any items you're particularly excited to work with or proud of?
MB: Currently we are busy creating an overall guide to the collection. This is a sizable and exciting job, as we discover areas in the collection which yield further insight into the history of the College. Most recently, I came across a group of student class notes, spanning from 1902-1913.I am particularly excited about the early images, including a small collection of WWI relief effort photographs.

AC: I am particularly excited about the early images, including a small collection of WWI relief effort photographs.

Can you tell us about your ideas and plans for the collection--from immediate housekeeping to pie in the sky dreams?
MB: Our goal is to create an overall guide to the collection and then, begin to focus on inventories and finding aids. The guide will outline and provide a brief description of the record groups in the collection. So far, we have created an overall shelf listing of the Archives holdings. The shelf listing enables us to locate materials with more ease and better assist researchers with their queries. Additionally, student assistants are busy working on inventories of the file cabinet drawers. So far, we have inventoried the Barnardiana files, the Graduate files, and the Trustee and Student files.

AC: Once all the photographs, transparencies, lantern slides, films and videos have been cataloged and properly housed, my other "pie in the sky" goal is to digitize the entire collection and to make much of it accessible online to researchers. It's a monumental job because we have thousands upon thousands of photographs here in the archives. But, I think my role here is ultimately to make myself obsolete.

What are each of you currently reading (or listening to)?
MB: I have been reading off and on The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki. I recently finished reading Flaubert in Egypt edited by Francis Steegmuller. I am currently reading Paul Bowles, Up Above the World. I have lined up Astraea by Frances Yates, Aeschylus’ The Oresteia, and I’ll find some lighter fiction to read on the subway.

AC: Right now I’m reading The Echo Maker by Richard Powers, World's End by Upton Sinclair, The Collected Poems of Charles Olson and The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 3: 1925-1930.

MB: I am enjoying listening to Columbia’s radio station WKCR. My new musical purchases include: Karen Dalton "Cotton Eyed Joe: the Attic tapes," Terry Riley "Music for the Gift," Derek Bailey "Pieces for Guitar," and an assortment of cassettes of traditional world music (found at a thrift store) on the Lyrichord label.

AC: This past week I've been listening to some excellent live Sun Ra recordings from the '70s, early Brian Eno as well as various other recordings.

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It turns out Astrid has been here THREE YEARS already!
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