We are starting a new series on our blog to introduce our readers to some of the staff at the Archives. The Division of Archives and Records has around 70 fulltime positions in addition to numerous interns and volunteers. Our staff is organized into four sections: Collection Services, Digital Services, Government Records, and Special Collections, and performs a wide variety of duties and services. Here is your chance to get acquainted with some of our staff and learn more about what we do.
First up is Heather South. Heather is the archivist at the Western Regional Archives (WRA) in Asheville.
Tell us a little about your job.
I serve as the sole employee running the newest branch for the State Archives. I work with patrons, donors, process collections, do outreach and training, supervise volunteers and interns, write finding aids and promote and collect Western Regional history.
How long have you worked for the Division?
I’ve worked with the State Archives of North Carolina for a year, opening the WRA in August 2012.
Describe your educational or career background.
I have a BA in History and Political Science and an MA in History from Winthrop University in Rock Hilll, SC. I fell in love with archives while completing an intership at the University Special Collections and never stopped working with history. After school I became the research archivist for the York County Culture and Heritage Museums and then moved the South Carolina State Archives as Preservation Officer.
Have you received any specialized training, certifications, awards, or recognitions?
Certified Archivist, AIC- Cultural Emergency Responder, IPER instructor, Archivist of the Year in SC 2010
What skills or traits do you think are needed to be successful at your job?
Well I lovingly call it schizophrenic project management- a little here and there and it eventually all gets done. Really, being flexible is probably the number one trait that makes me successful. With so many items being juggled, from projects to reports, requests to processing- being flexible helps make me better able to manage my time and tasks. It also helps to have a sense of humor. I fully embrace and acknowledge my history geekness and by doing so, make it fun to work here, fun for researchers, and fun for volunteers.
Are you involved in any professional organizations?
I am a member of Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA), Society of North Carolina Archivists (SNCA), South Carolina Archival Association (SCAA), Museums in Partnership, Mountain Area Cultural Resources Emergency Network (MACREN), Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA) Palmetto Archives Libraries and Museums Council on Preservation (PALMCOP), and the American Institute of Conservation- Cultural Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT)
Do you have a favorite collection or set of records?
I’ve fallen in love with the Black Mountain College Collections. While the school was short-lived, the set-up, the people, and the philosophy make for some interesting stories and ideas. With researchers from around the world using the materials, there are always new discoveries and connections being made that leave me in awe.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve come across in a collection?
Not here, but in a previous job we were working to unfold court cases and we discovered some evidence. Occasionally I would find a swatch a material for someone who had stolen fabric from a store but this time it was blood and brain matter folded up and labeled inside the case from a murder trial. GROSS!
What project(s) do you have coming up?
The WRA has several projects in the works but the biggest one coming up is cleaning and cataloging the American Enka Textile Mill Collection. This donation consists of over 500 original drawings, blueprints, and plans for the plant, the mill village, as well as some of their machinery and processes.
What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?
The opportunity to share information with such a diverse group of people.
What’s the most challenging reference question you’ve been asked?
Since I am new to NC history, all reference questions are challenging. I have a whole new state to learn about so I welcome the questions.
Is there an aspect of your job that you never thought you would end up doing?
Plumbing- we have a sink that constantly gets blocked with sediment so I have to tinker with it and empty out the filter on the spigot.
What work-related accomplishment are you most proud of?
Opening a brand new branch! It took a lot of hard work and dedication but the WRA continues to grow. Our use figures have been phenomenal considering we are brand new and it makes me proud to say I had a part in making it so successful.
What would you want people to know about our collections or services that may not be widely known?
Our collections are a big draw for historical tourism! The WRA has already seen visitors from California to Florida, France, Germany, the UK and Canada.
Do you have any special memories or anecdotes about working here?
Every day is a new adventure but having the black bears hanging out in the archives parking lot has to be one of the most interesting so far!