The Special Collections Research Center blog series "Student Spotlight" features student employees who contribute to the work of the SCRC. Guest author Molly Pruett, class of 2022, is an undergraduate NC State student majoring in English in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Polymer & Color Chemistry in the Wilson College of Textiles. Molly has worked as a Student Desk Assistant in the Special Collections Reading Room since January 2019.
Please describe in a sentence or two the work that you do in the Special Collections Research Center.
My primary role at the Special Collections Research Center is assisting visiting and local researchers with the materials that they have requested from Special Collections. This can be anything from historical University Archives photographs to more specialized records and documents. Additionally, I help with processing incoming collections and materials. Many incoming collections go through the Desk Assistants, which many people may not know.
What has been most interesting to you about your work? What new things have you learned? Have you made any surprising discoveries?
What is most interesting to me about working at Special Collections are the rare and engaging materials that get requested. Whether it be books on demonology from 1591 or a decades-old prototype of knit gastrointestinal valves (see the William Edward Shinn Papers (MC 00052), album 6), there is always something new or unexpected in the SCRC Reading Room. The researchers that I've spoken with have great insight into the academic process and offer excellent advice.
Additionally, sometimes the documents we’re processing have present-day significance which is interesting to see. For example, while processing records from the Office of Diversity and African American Affairs (UA 005.014), I came across a program from a visit by Dr. Christine Darden at an NCSU Brotherhood Banquet in 1990. This was especially good timing because I was getting to see her speak later that night. When I introduced myself she thought the coincidence was quite funny as well.
If you met someone who was unfamiliar with archives and special collections, what would you want them to know? What should new researchers know about the work you do?
I would want NCSU students to know that the collections are available to everyone, and requesting boxes is as easy as filling out our request form online.
As for new researchers, I would want them to be aware of the SCRC Reading Room’s guidelines and know that the desk staff can answer any questions they have. There are collections available in nearly every topic you can think of. SCRC is a gem in NCSU’s library system, and people should take advantage of all that we have to offer.
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’m studying both humanities and sciences at NC State, and working at the SCRC Reading Room helps me in both areas. Special Collections houses both scientific- and humanities-based materials for study. As I intend to pursue research in the near future, understanding and being able to utilize the materials available to me is critical. The learning curve of handling older documents, especially older scientific documents, is priceless. I would recommend that anyone request materials that they’d like to see and come in to learn how to take care of it. Working here has changed the way I handle my own documents because I now have a basic understanding of how to care for my materials in a way that does not damage them.
I have an interest in scientific and technical writing, which is why I applied to work at the SCRC. Special Collections is a great place to be around people within the research field who are professionals in technical writing. Currently, I intend to get my Accelerated Masters Degree in Technical Communication, but as I am a freshman that may change.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work with the SCRC?
Special Collections is a great place to do any sort of research, and I would recommend starting at the SCRC website to find materials to fit many different research interests. Check out our Rare & Unique Digitized Collections and our Collection Guides - you never know what you’ll find!