Monday, November 26, 2012

Herstory Project Podcast: Ida Annah Ryan

I was honored to be a participant in the Chick History Herstory project. Hear my podcast about Ida Annah Ryan, native of Waltham, Massachusetts, suffragette, and one of the first female architects in the United States.

52 women. One year of history. #HerStory is a project for 2012 in which each week, a contemporary woman shares the story of a historical woman who inspires her.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More Finds at the Local Antique Shop: The Manchester Diary Project

A newly found diary in a local antique shop
finds a temporary home in my possession.

 "This Book Belongs To
Eileen Langmayd
Date December 25, 1934
The Gift of Mildred, Leona & Carroll"
Inside I found three letters tucked, a photo, and dried flower petals. The diary itself is in good shape. It's leather is soft and buttery from age. It's papers are yellowing, but the handwriting is easily readable and the ink and pencil are strong.
"Dear Aunt Maria
I wonder what you are doing tonight
I am eating butter balls
I got gum
 all over my face and in my hair today
some mess
I went to SS this noon
the radio is coming good lately
Alice Marian has the scarlet fever
Aunt Flo comes down every night
Don't work too hard and get sick
Morris has a new German Police dog
good night

Eileen Langmayd"
A letter presumably written by Eileen Langmayd of Manchester,
NH when she was a child. (I am unsure why it is tucked into the diary she wrote as a teen.)

Finding diaries in antique shops is becoming a passion of mine. The Kennebunkport diary that I have written about extensively in this blog was a total mystery. I needed to figure out from where the diary came and who wrote it. That diary written by Ed Miller remains in my office. During my "break" next summer, I will try to reach out to those in Maine in his community to see if I can give the diary a good home.

Photo presumed to be of Eileen Langmayd
Unlike the Maine diary, clues are prevalent in this one written by a New Hampshire native. I am most fortunate that the author carefully inscribed her diary with her name. A quick Internet search of Eileen Langmayd brought me to the graduation program of Manchester High School Central. Our diarist was graduated from the school in 1935. I will continue transcribing her words and imagine that the ease of my initial search is likely indicative of the ease with which I will dig up more information about this woman.

The Kennebunkport diary is serving as a lesson in close reading. I hope to develop a unit for my high school students that shows how that by using close reading, one can pick up clues to provide context and understanding. The first stop for my New Hampshire diary is an elementary school, where the fourth graders are learning about local history. The diary will serve to bring history to life and make it more immediate for the school children.

I sit on the couch now, sharing this new diary with my father-in-law. He has wondered aloud if the diary mentions the rumblings of war. I've only been through a few pages, but knowing the diary runs from 1935-1939, I realize that he has a wonderful point. This diary, like the last I studied, will surely highlight some remarkable events. I am looking forward to sharing the adventure with you. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Creating Your Career

This post is for all those seeking "alternative" careers. While my first paragraph focuses on archives consulting, the purpose of this post is to address the idea that we have the opportunity to build our career and make it what we want to be, no matter the field in which we work.

Last week I had the pleasure of moderating a group at the New England Archivists' fall conference. Our session, Creating Your Career: Alternatives to Traditional Employment focused primarily on the archives consulting business, with three archives consultants on the panel. Our session was well attended. Our goal was to introduce ourselves and then answer audience questions. Audience inquiries kept us going past our scheduled time. There was a lot of curiosity in that room. I saw an unasked question in the eyes of some audience members - "What's your secret?" I want to focus on that unasked question in this blog post.

[The NEA session had handouts that describe our tips for archives consulting and information about how Susan Chapeldaine of CCIM Consulting, Cynthia G. Swank of Inlook Group, and I built our careers. Scroll down on the page to our 2PM time slot to find the link to our handouts.]

Building a career different from the mainstream takes patience, persistence, creativity, flexibility, outside-the-box thinking, good listening skills, the ability to build a strong professional network, and some financial savvy. You can create a career if you are a genealogist, writer, marketer, health care doesn't matter the field. Find a niche. Find something no one is doing or find something that no one is doing the way that you would do it. Aim to fill the niche. Write a business plan. Write a mission statement. Take your work seriously. Tell everyone what you are doing. Build a web presence. Listen to feedback from friends and the world. Be prepared to focus and refocus your business as you go. The business with which you start may not be the one with which you end up - and that's okay if you continually revise your plan based on observation and feedback.

One more point that didn't come up at our session or in our handouts: These days, it is trendy to "brand" oneself. I think that this kind of thinking may be here to stay. To brand yourself, you build a public presence that shows how you are different from the next guy. Even if you work in an institution, I believe that branding is a valuable thing to do. You may be in a traditional career. What about that job makes you passionate? Think about how you can share that passion with others.

The following is a list of some business people I know who have invented themselves. I hope that one day they will agree to write about their experiences here. (Though I haven't even asked them yet!) I list them here so that you can explore their web pages and consider how they created their careers. The first talented lady is in a traditional career but has built a brand through her blog and special project. The rest are entrepreneurs with outside-the-box thinking that I hope serves as some inspiration.

Rebecca Price works with AASLH, but is also the creator of Chick History. Her curiosity and passion are inspirational.

Erica Holthausen abandoned her career as an attorney and re-invented herself (twice) to bring to the world "The Honest Marketing Revolution."

Marian Pierre-Louis is a genealogist, house-historian, frequent public speaker, and newly minted podcast host. Simply put, she is a one person whirlwind, operating her business Fieldstone Historic Research.

Cheryl Dolan is a speech/language pathologist who spent many years building her Platinum Presence Program. This class may be the best class I have ever taken and I am so glad that Cheryl had the persistence and vision to create herself, bringing her ideas to fruition.

So whomever you want to be, use these women as inspiration and go for it!

[I was recently interviewed for the New England Archivists newsletter on this topic and the interview is out in the latest edition. I'll link to it online when they put it up.]

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sense of Place: Disorientation, Excitement, Nostalgia

Yesterday, I served as the moderator of a session titled "Creating Your Career: Alternatives to Traditional Employment" at the autumn New England Archivists' conference. I was excited to be returning to the school from which I received my Master's 20 years ago. I hadn't been on campus in 15 years. In fact, when I was last at Simmons College, they didn't really have a campus. I was familiar with the main building and a parking lot that was a constant cause of consternation. Parking was precious with not nearly enough space to accommodate the student body. Though I knew that Simmons had a great school of management and other programs in different buildings, it was as if those schools were not really part of my own since we were separated by architectural design.

I pulled into the underground parking lot and found a space with ease. The trip down from New Hampshire was smooth, though my sense of direction was not. Everything looked different. New businesses and construction confused me and I ended up driving out of my way to get where I was going. I was already feeling disoriented when I exited the parking garage and went up the elevator to a quad area. Simmons actually has a real campus now with buildings for the different schools connected by an outdoor area. A shiny new building greeted me for my conference across the way. It was clean, light, and full of glass. "Wow! This is MY school." I felt proud of the leaps my "little" school has taken in the past couple of decades. But I also felt a little old and disconnected. I realized that there was a definite generation gap between current students and my generation.

Having arrived early, I worked my way up to the library. It was basically my second home for one and a half years. I took an elevator up, admired the archives on display outside the information center and wandered in. Computers were everywhere, which was not unexpected. Comfortable sitting areas, clean tables, carpeting, and more showed off the best side of library science. Unlike MY Simmons library, this one comfortably combined resources for all of Simmons' schools. I wondered how students could really get the full impact of a cataloging class by sitting in such a cushy space. I was nostalgic for the hard tables and chairs surrounded by shelves of Library of Congress cataloging guides.  I had a deja view moment when I passed a copier. Something was familiar. Was this part of the old design? (Having a lousy sense of direction and less than stellar spacial relation skills, I couldn't be sure.)

Simmons College graduation day, 1993.
The student body seemed very young. I was the youngest person in the program when I attended Simmons. It now seemed like everyone wandering the halls was in her/his early twenties. That is, everyone looked young until I passed another woman looking as dazed and confused as I felt. "Wow, this place has changed," she muttered. She had the poised, intellectual look of a well-informed librarian. She was working her way through the conference with a sense of professional grounding, I think. I knew that she was seeking a few pointers that she might have missed along the way. She was not bouncing from program to program quickly taking as many notes as she could to figure out who she wanted to be and what path she would follow to launch her archives career. "When did you graduate?" I asked. "1992," she responded. " we know each other?" No. But we both knew that we shared the same sense of place. We were part of the same Simmons community with a sense of place that differed from many others at the conference that day.

Then, I reached it. I stood in the main entryway of the old Simmons building that I knew so well. It  looked virtually the same. The old architecture greeted me with open arms. I felt markedly more relaxed and thought, "I'm so glad they left you intact." This was/is MY Simmons. This was the hall that held my memories and I could practically hear the voices of my generation beating from the walls. I welcome change, but I am once again reminded of the importance of memory and sense of place. They are so intricately woven into our sense of self. They are part of the thread of our history. Sense of place is a delicate thing. Markers reminding us of where we have been help ground us and let us walk confidently into our future.

I entered the lecture hall. I was ready to share what I could to help this new generation, with their new sense of place, to find their own confident stride.