Annie Tang, a member of the 2013–15 Association of Research Libraries/SAA Mosaic Cohort, considers finding her father’s military identification card from the Vietnam War as the moment when she knew she wanted to become an archivist. “He had been drafted into the South Vietnamese army during the conflict,” she said. “After surviving the war, harrowingly escaping the country with my mother and siblings, and forging a new life in the United States, he kept this keepsake. Holding that aged, yellow, laminated card in my hand, I knew I wanted to preserve pieces of history like this.” Read on for Tang’s thoughts on diversifying the archives profession and her goals as a Mosaic Program Fellow. SAA: Why did you decide to pursue a career in archives? AT: For me, the professional life of an archivist merged two traits I wanted in a career: 1) to work on hands-on, tactile projects such as archives processing and 2) to increase awareness of the peoples, places, and events around us that shape our present and our past. As an amateur historian, the allure of handling and organizing historical papers was too much to resist! SAA: Where did you complete your internship, and what work did you do? AT: I recently finished my internship with the UCLA Library Special Collections in June. The repository allowed me to work on a number of projects to hone my professional archival skills. For example, I processed, from start to finish, a small collection of papers relating to the history of cross-country travel in the post–World War II period. Additionally, I eagerly curated a “flash exhibit,” part of a series of temporary, small displays in which the responsibility of curation is rotated between staff and student workers in special collections. Lastly, I conducted quality control of legacy metadata by removing obsolete information, updating file names, and editing and validating XML files to reflect current standards of description. Upon graduating last spring, I now currently work as a project archivist at University of California, Santa Cruz, processing social activist collections from the 1960s and 1970s. SAA: What do you hope to accomplish as a result of your participation in the Mosaic Program? AT: By my program’s completion, I hope to strengthen my professional readiness; continue to connect with archival professionals at various career levels; and to possess the best tools to influence repositories to concentrate their powers on acquiring, documenting, and making accessible diverse stories. Particularly during my internship, I hoped I was able to convey some of my perspectives as an Asian American and as a child of Chinese- Vietnamese immigrants and the lack of our representation—As well as other of other groups of color—in archives and special collections. SAA: In your opinion, what’s one step the archives profession can take to further attract diverse individuals to the workforce? AT: Show them that the gaps in the historical record can be filled and more importantly fulfilled by them. Create outreach programs that expose these potential archives professionals to the glaring omissions of diversity and spur them to action. I am personally fired up when I see a repository’s list of collection finding aids and see almost no inclusion of multicultural perspectives. How are we supposed to influence scholars to diversify the historical record if we are not even providing them those records in the first place? SAA: Thirty years from now, what do you hope peoples’ perception of the archives profession will be? AT: Three decades from now, I would love it if people automatically looked to archivists as practitioners of digital preservation, particularly born-digital materials. Predominantly the meat of our profession has been, and is, rare books, manuscripts, and records. Increasingly as we accept more digital materials and forward digitization initiatives in repositories, these will soon have equal footing in proportion to analog records. SAA: As an archivist, how will you help to diversify collections and bring more awareness to underrepresented cultures? AT: Asian American history holds a special place in my heart, so now and in the future I hope to continue to bring those particular stories from the past to light, through archival holdings. Currently as a project archivist I am processing the papers of a notable writer who documented the Asian American Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, one of the many waves of social activism that occurred among the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. Mainstream American history tends to be racialized in terms of black and white (with even the former being marginalized), but we as archivists know it comprises much more than that. Although cliché, I sincerely believe that if I can help narrate history in terms of a patchwork “mosaic,” I feel I will have fulfilled at least one of my career aspirations as an archivist of color.
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