The Special Collections Research Center blog series "Student Spotlight" features student employees who contribute to the work of the SCRC. Guest author Kristen Blake, class of 2021, is an undergraduate NC State student majoring in Biological Sciences with concentrations in Zoology and Anthropology in the College of Sciences. Kristen has worked as an Archival Assistant in University Archives since August 2017.
Please describe in a sentence or two the work that you do in the Special Collections Research Center.
I am an archival assistant and my responsibilities include collection processing, which involves sorting through papers to help decide what needs to be in a collection and what does not. I also do research on specific people or topics for SCRC researchers and for our Historical State Timelines using the library resources.
What has been most interesting to you about your work? What new things have you learned? Have you made any surprising discoveries?
I have really appreciated getting to look at the university’s history and have especially enjoyed seeing how different minority groups have become a presence and influence on campus in recent decades. Looking through news events and publications from the past and seeing how far we have come is inspiring. A few of my projects have involved going through African American Student Affairs files and minority affairs documents specifically, giving me the opportunity to see the growth and development of programs with the purpose of diversity recruitment and retention. It has been neat to learn about the processes and people at play who are working to get and keep us all here.
Getting to deal with Biographical Files concerning NCSU staff accomplishments is quite rewarding too, especially if the person is my or a friend’s instructor. Also, just being in the office allows me to see and learn a lot about what is involved in archival management. From deciding how to organize information to artifact storage and handling, it has all been very fascinating. For instance, the library received a collection composed entirely of funky cat-inspired memorabilia (see the Claire Necker Papers, MC 00364), and it was fun to watch everyone try to decide what should be displayed or stay stored.
It’s interesting to see the things that are held in Special Collection. There are beautiful, hand-illustrated books, old documents, and paintings that I would never have thought that the Libraries would have. It is like a little museum, and it all makes my inner nerd extremely happy. I also love finding old maps of how NCSU used to look and being able to see a space on campus and know how it has changed. It is also nice to know which people campus buildings are named after and why. Working here has added so much depth and insight to my perspective of both Main and Centennial Campus.
What are you studying, and what do you hope to do in your future career? Has your work in the SCRC changed how you look at your studies or your future career plans in any way?
I am studying Biological Sciences in the BA program. My concentrations are in Zoology and Anthropology, and I might be adding an Applied Ecology minor. I am not entirely sure what I would like to do in the future, but it will most likely involve graduate school to be able to do research and possibly teach. Working here has indeed helped me determine my academic path. When I first came to NCSU, I was a Zoology major and did not enjoy it. I had always known I loved museum-related work, that is why I chose to work here. Being here helped me open my eyes to potential careers outside of STEM as well as those that combine science and the arts together. I have gotten to look over the work of many academic professionals and see how they have combined disciplines to become experts in specific niches. Being able to come across such items helped me see the bigger picture for myself as I tried to figure out what I should be doing with my time at State.