As one of the five fellows in the Association of Research Libraries/SAA Mosaic Program, Dan Johnson will intern in the Special Collections Department at the University of Houston Libraries, where he will gain hands-on experience processing materials, preparing finding aids, staffing the desk in the reading room, and interacting with researchers. Read on for Johnson’s take on the future of archives and the “fateful” visit that led him to the profession. SAA: Why did you decide to pursue a career in archives? DJ: My decision to pursue a career in archives can be traced to a fateful visit to the Michigan State University (MSU) Libraries. At the time, I was considering returning to school to follow my interest in comics and sequential art at a university that had embraced this nascent field. I knew some of the English faculty at MSU and was able to arrange a visit with Randy Scott, the assistant head of Special Collections. He took me through a tour of the back room of one of the largest comic book library collections in the nation. I was like a kid in a candy store. The more I asked, the more Scott seemed to know. Whether I was speaking of Dr. Wertham’s anticomic crusades that led to congressional hearings in the 1950s, the underground comix movement of the 1960s, the influx of British authors in the 1980s, or the political ramifications of South American newspaper comics, Scott had examples of primary materials to fuel our discussion. He was obviously knowledgeable about the holdings he curated, and it was evident that he had a passion for sequential art. It was that visit to MSU’s Special Collections that made me realize there is a place in libraries for archivists who specialize in collecting and making accessible sequential art material. SAA: What do you hope to accomplish as a result of your participation in the ARL/SAA Mosaic Program? DJ: I hope to be able to better prepare myself for an archivist position at an academic library that has significant holdings of popular culture materials. While I am especially interested in sequential arts materials, I would be happy to work with a variety of cultural artifacts. The internship will allow me the chance to put some of my graduate coursework material to practical use and will give me exposure to other facets of special collections. I hope this position will help me develop the necessary tools to become an archivist, work with special collections holdings, network with fellow professionals, and keep up with the latest trends and best practices in the field. SAA: In your opinion, what’s one step the archives profession can take to further attract diverse individuals to the workforce? DJ: I think one of the most useful means of attracting diverse individuals is to offer internships, fellowships, and mentorship opportunities for members of underrepresented groups who are new to the field. Internships and fellowships give budding archivists the ability to work on projects above and beyond classroom work and better position themselves to break into the profession. SAA: Thirty years from now, what do you hope peoples’ perception of archives will be? DJ: In the future, I hope all people will see themselves reflected in the varied types of materials and collections and will feel like their history is included in the record. I also hope there will be a stronger bridge between physical collections and digital collections. SAA: As an archivist, how will you help to diversify collections and bring more awareness to underrepresented cultures? DJ: I think my interests in sequential art and digital collections puts me in an interesting position of championing an underrepresented medium, while my experience as a first-generation immigrant has given me a perspective that constantly interrogates the interplay between cultures. Born in El Salvador but raised in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, I was raised with one foot in my country of origin and one foot in my adopted country. Immigrant children like me have an acute awareness of the tension between the pressure to assimilate and the pressure to honor and celebrate ethnic origins. I am reminded of the wonderful graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese, and its message of learning to accept your heritage as a gift and a valuable component of your identity.
Published by Society of American Archivists. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://www.bluetoad.com/article/Someone+You+Should+Know%3A+Dan+Johnson/1765442/218177/article.html.