From Textiles to Conservation to Archives
When I tell people that my bachelor’s degree is in Textiles, I usually get a look of surprise (or sometimes befuddlement.) How did I get from art to archives? It is not as great a leap as one might think. I was not fulfilled by my work as an administrative assistant, although I enjoyed the academic environment, focus on continued learning for all members of the community, and I was inspired by the relationships I had with students, faculty, and staff. One semester, I began researching my genealogy and took many trips to the Tennessee State Library & Archives (TSLA). During one visit there, I remember looking around and thinking that this was the kind of place that I would like to work, and the kind of thing I would like to do.
Textiles and conservation of non-digital materials share a focus on the physical process and are both materials-oriented disciplines. Handwork and craft (or technical expertise) are important parts of each profession, as is knowledge of the history of the processes involved. A great deal of conservation as a field focuses on documents, which are made of a variety of types of fiber. Textiles are also made of fiber, so they need to be handled and are often created in the same way. Additionally, other areas of conservation, such as media, objects, art, and even textiles are open to conservators. So even at the level of materials, they are not so far removed after all. (At this time, I hadn’t even thought about the preservation of born-digital materials, which I was to become interested in later.)
I wanted to continue working with my hands in a process-oriented discipline that allowed me to do some good while preserving materials. When I was a teenager, for example, I learned about the many lost films from the silent and early sound era. Hearing how films had been destroyed or just neglected until they decomposed honestly broke my heart. Every time I read about a lost film, I felt that something important had disappeared and would never come back. This feeling was revived when thinking about a career in archives. That my work has some meaning outside of the present day is important to me, and this work fulfills that need.
I further investigated the areas of archives, special collections, and family history library service by visiting various libraries and institutions in Nashville and by volunteering at TSLA in Public Services for a year before I started graduate school. While I did not serve in the Archives section during that time, I learned much about what a state library and archives did, and got to know who did what at that type of institution. That experience led me to want to enter this field, and getting a degree in information science seemed to be the right path.
This site is the culmination of my work at the University of Tennessee, in the School of Information Sciences. This ePortfolio is presented in compliance with the School’s exit requirements for the Master of Science in Information Science Degree. Please use the menu items above to browse through the E-Portfolio areas and requirements.
I, Jennifer Randles, state that all work submitted as part of this ePortfolio is mine alone (except where indicated), and has been prepared entirely by myself.