Hello! My name is Tess Will, and I am a master's student at UNCW in the Public History Department. For my last year of graduate school, I have been a Processing Intern here in Special Collections at Randall Library, where I am learning archival processing methods, engaging with professional texts in the field, and learning lots of new skills! I have been working in museums, libraries, and archives for over five years, starting when I was an undergraduate student at East Carolina University. As a history major at ECU, I was first introduced to the world of archives and museums through my own historical research, where I became enamored with the "stuff" of history. While I loved the research, I found myself drawn to the care and management of historical archives and artifacts, which led me to pursue a minor in public history. My first public history position was as a tour guide at the Country Doctor Museum in Bailey, North Carolina, where I interpreted medical history to the public and dipped my toes into collections care. Before I graduated, I was lucky enough to work as an intern in the History Collections of Laupus Library and as a State of North Carolina Intern at the Queen Anne's Revenge Conservation Lab.
I chose to pursue a graduate degree in public history because it encompassed the fields that I love and would prepare me for a variety of different positions. I was thrilled when I was accepted into the program here at UNCW because of Wilmington's rich (though at times difficult) history and the many cultural/historical institutions I could engage with while a master's student. Something I found important in a master's program was an emphasis on practical experience, and UNCW had just that. Students in the public history program are required to complete a practicum as one of their final credits to graduate, and I was lucky enough to do that work here in Special Collections!
During my time here at UNCW and in Wilmington, I have learned a lot about caring for the past, both physically and intellectually. I love my position here in Special Collections because of the skills and competencies I have learned, but I also find the work to be incredibly fulfilling. I enjoy creating order from chaos and making the past accessible to researchers and the public alike through my work. During the course of my practicum, I hope to accomplish the following goals:
- ArchivesSpace: As I continue my work here in Special Collections, I would like to become more familiar with our software ArchivesSpace. Data entry and navigating different types of software are incredibly important in the positions I hope to find myself gainfully employed! I would like to become more competent with different aspects of ArchivesSpace because it is a commonly used software in many archives and libraries.
- Engage More with Professional Texts: As a public history student, I have become very well-rounded but lack the specialized training that archivists and librarians get while completing degrees in Library Science. As a part of my practicum, I will be reading and discussing texts as assigned by my practicum supervisor (Thank you, Nicole!). I hope that this work, built upon readings I completed last fall, will help me be better prepared for a potential position in an archive.
- Be More Aware of Archival Silences: Archives and museum collections to this day are overwhelmingly filled with the voices of the wealthy, white, educated elite. As a public history professional and (hopefully!) future archivist or collections manager, I want to continue the work started by others and become more aware of how to make collections more equitable. I hope to join the good work of erasing the silences within archives.
Upon graduating in May, I hope to gain a full-time position as an Archivist, Collections Manager, or Registrar. In these positions, I would be able to interact with the "stuff" of history daily through careful care and organization. I look forward to spending my last months of graduate school here in Special Collections and can't wait to see what I learn next!