Much like our curators, the Museum’s archivists typically work behind-the-scenes. However, on October 2, in honor of Ask An Archivist Day, our social media followers were able to learn more about archival work and get a peek inside the daily lives of our on-site archivists. Check out some of the questions and responses below!
What training do you have? How did this become a career for you?
“My educational background includes a Masters in Information Studies and a Masters in Public History among several other related studies, certificates, and work experiences. With the rapid growth of information, data management has become a vital part of the Museum’s ability to document and manage its extraordinary collections and its everyday business activities. With my past studies in history and art, libraries and archives became a natural draw where I could apply my knowledge and skills to assist others.” –Heather Winter, Librarian/Archivist
What’s the history of MAM acquiring the Judge Jason Downer House for archival storage?
“The move to the Downer mansion in 2017 more than doubled the Museum’s original archive and library space. The larger space has enabled us to work one-on-one with researchers, authors, students, and staff, and provide behind-the-scenes tours to classes, support groups, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and more. Materials are housed at both the Downer mansion, for more typical day-to-day inquires, and also at the Milwaukee Art Museum for rarer materials.” –Heather Winter, Librarian/Archivist
What is a typical workday like?
“As the Museum’s media archivist, I fulfill daily staff requests for digital images and audio/video for various projects and press/social media. I am also constantly digitizing old media formats in our archive collections for digital access internally and online, along with maintaining and updating the information, or metadata, that describes these digital files that we create. While very time consuming, it allows us to be able to search for media when we need it, which enhances the stories of the objects in our Collection, and to tell the history of the Museum from its earliest beginnings to the present day.” –Beret Balestrieri Kohn, Media Archivist
How often do you collaborate with others during the day, and how often do you work alone?
“Our work in the library/archives is fascinating and no two days are alike! Some days we may be cataloging/archiving books or one-of-a-kind materials, and other days are spent working with researchers, staff, or students on their projects. Every day I feel like I am learning new things about the collections and Museum’s history, and I am thrilled we can share that information to help others move their own projects forward.” –Heather Winter, Librarian/Archivist
What’s the most difficult aspect of your job?
“In the archives, every day is different, which is both refreshing but also challenging. Each new request allows us to delve into a facet of the Museum’s history we often have not had a chance to visit, and we do get a bit distracted now and again winding down the threads of artists and events that have passed throughout the decades. We learn so much so quickly but often don’t have the time to indulge in the details as there is always a new request around the corner, changing our focus. It’s really a happy difficulty to have.” –Beret Balestrieri Kohn, Media Archivist
If you could choose any piece from the archives to display, what would it be?
“I am a big fan of the Brooks Stevens archive material. Some of my favorites are the early iterations of the Wienermobile. There are so many amazing designs in his collection, here’s a snapshot.” –Heather Winter, Librarian/Archivist
How does one become qualified to be an archivist?
“In the fast-paced information world, more archivists are definitely needed! We are lucky enough to have several excellent university archive programs near. If interested, be sure to look into the School of Information Studies at UW-Milwaukee and the Information School at UW-Madison.” –Heather Winter, Librarian/Archivist