Reflection by Nicole Chinn
When we were first told about this project, I remember being really confused about what exactly the project was supposed to be. Despite having a BA in English, I actually never spent much time in libraries or had much of a fascination with them, so I wasn’t quite sure what the archives were, or what to expect from them. I have to admit that I spent most of the first few weeks of the semester in a kind of only half-understanding haze of the project. It wasn’t until we started exploring our possible collections that things finally clicked for me.
Once I was inside the reading room, thumbing through letters from Jeanann Madden to her mom, I started to become invested in the project in a much deeper sense than I ever expected. There’s something about reading letters meant for someone else that feels incredibly personal - like I shouldn’t be allowed to have this kind of a glimpse into someone’s life. The more I read these letters, the more I learned about Jeanann. I started to develop a sense of what her personality was like, figure out what kinds of jokes she likes to make, realized how much she values her family and friends, and was even able to get over the fact that she sometimes uses too many commas. I felt like I had made a new friend - one that I had never met before. It was an incredibly interesting experience for me and I’m glad I was able to have it.
As mundane as it may sound, I think that the most meaningful part of the project for me was the transcription of the letters in my subcollection. The first time I read through the letters, when selecting which ones to scan, I read them all the way through, but not as closely as I was able to when transcribing. Having to take the time to really read each word that she used and follow how she would form sentences, place hyphens, and things of that sort really afforded me the chance to get to know Jeanann even better than I thought I did the first time through. The process of transcribing the letters was also surprisingly relaxing as well, so that was a plus.
Of course, the project did not come without hardships, however, they are few and far between. Getting artifacts for my collection started out a bit rough because I had trouble finding time in my schedule to make it into the library to scan when they had available hours. Though, once I was able to get all of my scans done, creating the tangibles wasn’t too difficult. The group project aspect of it was also a little daunting. Trying to collaborate with not just my own classmates, but an entirely separate team of people assisting us with the collection was quite the test of patience for everyone, I think. However, I think that this group project setting did help to bring the class closer together and allowed some people to try on different project leadership roles, which was refreshing. None of the issues I encountered lasted for long or were unsolvable and I’m thankful for that.
Working on this project and getting to collaborate with the Special Collections was an eye-opening experience. Doing this project allowed me the chance to experience the archives in a way I likely would not have done on my own. Though, I am thankful that this project is coming to a close, because I’m excited to see it go live in the near future. I sincerely hope that future classes doing this project are able to have a similar experience.