I spoke with Craig, our leading Archival Services manager, who has been a huge part of bringing archival services to Bacsktage’s repertoire. He’s been with Backstage for a year and a half having started in 2020.
A: Where did you work before coming to Backstage?
C: I actually started as a baker for Texas Roadhouse for five years when I started working. After my time there, I then worked at Amazon for a brief period of time. During this, I worked as a freelance archivist on the side, helping non-profits around the Milwaukee area. I also did volunteer work at the Milwaukee County Historical Society for around 4 years. I did all of this until I was hired by Backstage in November of 2020.
A: What type of material have you had the most experience working with?
C: Archival materials tend to be divided into two categories: analog (papers, journals, books) and A/V (cassettes, microfilm, CDs). The bulk of my work has been with analog; particularly, business materials. Because of this, I am hopeful that Backstage will eventually get a contract that is primarily digital. This is for two reasons; the first being that digital materials are going to become more and more common as time progresses. Second, I would like to work on a digital project, simply for the sake of my own curiosity as an archivist.
A: When you are working through a collection, what is your goal?
C: My goal is to understand the collection; to see the big picture, in a sense. Often, the person who assembled the collection before you had a schema in mind. Some examples include items that were created in the same day, or maybe a specific type of item such as brochures all placed in the same box. This is not always the case and there will be times that the collection is left in a state of disarray. These collections are more challenging as the archivist will need to apply an order of some sort, or keep it as is. The job of the archivist is to take these organized piles, and make them accessible through practices like logical arrangement, finding aids, potential digitization, etc. The archivist primary job is to make collections accessible to the general public through various processes and procedures that are determined beforehand.
A: Tell me about a previous project that you worked through. What was unique about it?
C: The last project we worked on was for a University in Maryland during our pilot project initiative. This collection, or collections in this case, were unique for a couple of reasons, the first being that this was an academic institution’s collection as opposed to a company’s. Academic institutions frequently have very set procedures in mind for processing that have to be followed carefully. This project consisted of three smaller collections as opposed to one larger collection, which in turn means three different processing plans. I was able to get more experience using ArchivesSpace, an open-source archival software, on a professional project. It was challenging in a very helpfully formative way while we worked out what we wanted our new archival service to look like, and we learned a lot from the project as a whole. The knowledge gained from this project will help us improve in further projects.
A: How have your experiences in the field helped prepare you for this position at Backstage?
C: The most obvious preparation was my direct archival experience, but some other aspects have been learning to work with a variety of clients and people. I worked with primarily non-profit organizations whose budgets ranged from small to non-existent. Because of this, I’ve learned that flexibility is crucial when working with other organizations. When I was initially hired at Backstage, I was in the On-Site department as a project manager. This job entailed, amongst other things, that I travel to various libraries throughout the country. This meant working with various library directors and their staff whose workflows could all be very different. I’ve been learning to adapt to different project perspectives, different budgets, different staffing, even environments when On-Site locations were shy on space. This variety has honestly been a huge benefit.
A: We’ve talked before about some of our overlapping hobbies! How do you prefer to spend your time outside of work?
C: I like to go to the boxing gym to get my exercise in. I am also an avid MTG, or magic the gathering, card player. When I am not doing those things, I will usually be playing Pokémon on either my Gameboy or computer, although I do branch out and play strategy games from time to time. I try to also visit a different part of the country every year with this year’s destination being Mount Rushmore with my father.