Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts featuring student employees who contribute to the work of the Special Collections Research Center, "Student Spotlight." Guest author Sarah Take, class of 2019, is an undergraduate NC State student majoring in Design Studies with a minor in Physics. Sarah has worked as a Student Desk Assistant in the Special Collections Reading Room since May 2018
How would you describe the work that you do in the Special Collections Research Center?
I assist researchers with any Special Collections materials they are interested in finding or viewing, and I also process collections in the meantime.
What has been most interesting to you about your work? What new things have you learned? Have you made any surprising discoveries?
It’s interesting because every day is different. I get the chance to meet researchers from all over who travel to look at our materials, and it’s always fun talking with them about their studies and what they hope to find. I essentially learn something new every day. Not just from researchers, but also from the collections I get to process. I love handling old materials and primary sources because it’s such a great opportunity to interact with pieces of history. The more you look at a collection, the more it feels like you were actually there. It’s basically a window to the past.
I’ve learned a lot about the history of NC State University and its inner workings, specifically more “hidden” histories. I’ve seen scandals, read through correspondence detailing inter-departmental tension, and even a thoroughly-written annual report on “The College of Metaphysical Sciences,” which supposedly offered programs in Alchemy, Sorcery, and Necromancy.
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?
From our collection of rare books (some of which date back to the Renaissance), to our boxes full of old photographs, sketches, blueprints, and illustrations, we essentially have a museum right at our fingertips. Nothing is behind glass or off-limits either, so we offer a very hands-on approach to history and primary sources of all types. Unfortunately, not many people know the Special Collections exist, unless they’ve needed it for a class. We offer a unique opportunity to interact and study real pieces of history. Anyone and everyone is welcome too, not just people associated with NCSU.
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’ve specifically been focusing on how design principles could be applied to various forms of science communication in order to make science as a whole more appealing to the public. Specifically, I’ve been focusing on visualization of the abstract and user-centered design. I hope to go on to grad school after I graduate so I can further this focus, as there is not much that exists on it right now.
I don’t have any definite goals of what I want to do with my future, but I applied to the SCRC because I love research, and working here has only reaffirmed that love. I’ve learned that when dealing with these sources, it’s easy to overlook a lot of interesting pieces of information. Research takes time, and there are plenty of gems hidden in the details. I do know that whatever I end up doing, I want it to involve research, just because it’s a great way to constantly be learning. What is life if not just one big opportunity to learn?
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work with the SCRC?
Just that you don’t have to be looking for anything in particular to visit us and view materials. It’s okay to just request something because it sounds interesting. You never know what you may find!