A typical Stuttgart-Anchorage workday

Guest artist today: Kathy.

Arlene’s mentioned in our blog that one of her staff members now lives in Stuttgart, Germany, well that would be me! It does make it difficult for me to make the “morning coffee” staff meetings, but Arlene’s great updates keep me in the daily loop. Life’s never dull in our archives and the projects just keep on showing up at our doorstep. I happen to be working on one of those projects as the Atwood Papers Archivist. You would have seen me walking around the Archives and Library with the rest of our staff, but then my husband got transferred here and now I work in the study of our home in a small village southwest of Stuttgart called Dagersheim.

So how do I continue my work from here? Well quite simply with how we ran this project all along with a team of absolutely top-notch student workers at the Consortium Library; volunteers of the calibre of Kevin Tripp, the Senior Archivist from AMIPA; advice from AMIPA’s cataloguer Greg Schmitz; and help in so many ways from Arlene our boss and the rest of our staff Mariecris and Nicole. The many talented students who have helped refolder, rebox, and also rehouse and scan Atwood family photographs include: Tatiana Vayner, Sumi Kim, Payton Augafa, Stacy Jeffrey, Oxana Sinyavina, and Jeff Henderson.

With everyone’s teamwork we continue processing this collection, but one student worker has really become intertwined with this project and that’s Martin Damron or Marty to everyone on staff. He started with us last summer and has been a fixture ever since. He comes to us with the added bonus that he holds a Journalism degree so it gives him a great insight into a collection of a pre-eminent American Newspaper family like Bob Atwood, his wife Evangeline, and daughters Marilyn and Elaine who owned and ran the Anchorage Times.

Marty has kept me hopping to keep ahead of him with all the aspects of the collection that we work on daily. The key to us being able to work like this so effectively and for me to work at all from this distance of course begins with the spirit of cooperation that already exists in our department and in our library and the support of people like D’Arcy Hutchinson who supervises the student workers. Also modern technology allows Marty’s and my workdays to go like clockwork.

To begin with, our great IT people, namely Mike Robinson and Brad Generous, have set us up perfectly with our systems and with getting me onto Remote Site Computer Access so I can work on my computer in my office at the Archives every day from my MAC at home here in Germany. Arlene deserves credit on helping make that one happen too. I start my day 10 hours ahead of Marty in Anchorage so we can both “share” the same office computer as I make sure I’m off it by the time he shows up bright and early Anchorage time and I’m heading off to walk my Labradors in the early evening here.

The other important technology we use daily happens to be digital photography. Arlene took initial photos of the collection for me and then Marty continued that and this has been an incredibly effective tool of communication between us ever since. Every time I pass instructions on to Marty or he needs clarification or just simply needs to let me know what he’s accomplished, we refer to the numbered photos. It allows me to see the collection firsthand all the time! New photos get taken when questions arise and when something gets completed, allowing Marty and I to be working side by side processing the Atwood papers in the cyber world.

I spend my day in Stuttgart doing my work and getting instructions together for Marty by looking at what he’s written to me the night before and from digital images he’s sent me from Anchorage. We also have fantastic photos of all the papers on the shelves in our stacks so I can do a virtual walk through them all the time. Marty then shows up for his work day and whips right through all the work I’ve given him and then sends me e-mails with his daily accomplishments and any questions he has for the new tasks always using numbered photos to keep us both on the same page.

This whole transformation of the project from my sitting in my office in the UAA Archives every day to sitting in my study in Germany being able to do the same thing literally has been one of the most rewarding and really fun challenges of my career. Everyday we continue to adapt how we make this long-distance virtual processing work and because of this and Arlene keeping me so closely involved in the daily going-ons it feels like I’m not only at UAA mentally and in spiritually, but when I do my daily virtual walk-throughs that I’m there in body too.

The Atwood family have lots of photographs in their collection of their holidays in Germany. I’d like to think that if they knew a cooperative effort between the team in Anchorage and myself in Germany working to make their papers accessible, that it would bring smiles to their faces. Bob also liked to jump right on new technology for his paper, so us using the latest for this project would certainly be an extension of that mentality.

So from Marty in Anchorage and myself in Stuttgart, that’s it for today and I’ll keep you posted from across the globe. On a downer note, I keep missing all the great birthday parties that seem to always happen in our library and I guess I owe a lot of people chocolate…

About aschmuland

I'm head of Archives & Special Collections at the Consortium Library. I've been with A&SC since 2002, first as reference archivist, now as head of the department.

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