Steven Booth 2016-07-11 12:23:04
Steven D. Booth has worked for the U.S. National Archives since 2009 as an archivist with the Presidential Materials Division, Office of General Counsel, and now the Barack Obama Presidential Library. He previously held positions at Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center and JPMorgan and Chase, providing access to the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2015, Booth co-founded Archivists of Metro D.C., a collective of allied professionals who help local community organizations create self-sustaining archival programs. An active member of SAA, he has served as co-chair of the Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable, the Harold T. Pinkett Minority Student Award Subcommittee, and most recently the Awards Committee, where he was named emeritus co-chair for his outstanding leadership and service throughout the 2013–2015 awards cycle. Booth is a 2008 ALA Spectrum Scholar and a member of the 2015 Archives Leadership Institute cohort. He squeezed in a bit of time to talk with SAA about community building, fashion in the stacks, and his dream collection. SAA: What first drew you to the archives? SB: I was drawn to archives while studying music at Morehouse College. As a participant of the Mellon Librarian Recruitment Program, I had the opportunity to intern at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library where I learned about librarianship career opportunities. Through the program I met archivists Karen Jefferson, Andrea Jackson, and Meredith Evans. Their work documenting and preserving the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities resonated with my affinity for research and organization. Together, they encouraged me to pursue an archival career and attend Simmons College. SAA: What projects are you working on? SB: As one of the inaugural archivists hired for the Obama Library, I am currently assisting with the eventual transition of textual, electronic, and audio/visual records from the White House to Chicago, which will take place at the end of the Administration. During my time at the National Archives I’ve worked with a variety of presidential and vice presidential records, but never at an actual library. Having this opportunity is a dream come true. Being able to return to my hometown and contribute to the community I grew up in, both personally and professionally, has always been a goal of mine. And I’m excited to be a part of a team that will play a significant role in establishing the library of the nation’s forty-fourth and first African American president. SAA: What sparked your Culture Keepers Tumblr project? SB: Culture Keepers is a passion project I started back in 2014 to document Black archivists and honor their contributions to the profession. The impetus for this project began while doing research at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee about the establishment of SAA’s Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable (AACR). I was fascinated to learn about how archivists Diana Lachatanere, Carol Rudisell, Paula Williams, and many others mobilized and fought to make AACR possible during a time when there was barely any minority representation within the organization. It’s a piece of archival history that’s not discussed, and it should be. And although I haven’t posted anything new since last year, Culture Keepers is still in existence and will re-emerge very soon. SAA: What current trends in the archival profession are you most excited about? SB: I’m most excited about the community building that’s taking place in the profession. Archivists across the country are stepping outside the confines of traditional organizational associations to create new life and meaning to their work. Within the last few years, we’ve seen groups like Itinerant Archivists, Los Angeles Archivists Collective, Project ARCC (Archivists Responding to Climate Change) and Archivists of Metro D.C. organized. As a profession, they collectively represent the myriad social causes that our work affects and illustrate how multidimensional we are as archivists. It’s inspiring to see us empower, serve, educate, and advocate for communities in which we live and are a part of through archival means. SAA: What makes for a well-dressed archivist? SB: Being a well-dressed archivist is subjective. The type of institution, organizational culture, and specialization influences what an archivist wears. You want to show your personality and style, while also trying to be comfortable and functional. It’s a tightrope, especially for those of us who work in stack areas that are cold and dusty. I’m a huge supporter of the capsule wardrobe and have worked to create a minimalist style with interchangeable basic and modish pieces that can be worn regularly. I’m often inspired by some of my favorite style geniuses in the profession: Meg Tuomala, Geof Huth, Derek Mosley, Tamar Evangelista-Dougherty, and Kelly Kietur. SAA: What collection would be your dream collection to care for as an archivist? SB: If I had the opportunity to care for a dream collection, it would be Oprah’s. Her work as a media mogul, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist has touched and influenced many people’s lives. Can you imagine the volume of materials she’s accumulated over the years? The significance of her collection is invaluable. There would have to be a customized storage facility separate from the actual archives and museum to house her materials. If Beyoncé has her own archivist, Oprah should too!
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