Georgette Mayo

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Interviewee: Georgette Mayo
Interviewer: Justin Davis
Date: October 3, 2016
Accession #: PHP 020
Length of Recording:
Sound Recording
Summary

Georgette Leona Mayo is a 2005 graduate of the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina.  She participated in the archives track under the guidance of Dr. Constance Schulz and also took some classes in the museum track. Her undergraduate degree is also from UofSC, where she studied in the African American Studies Department. Concurrently with her M.A. in Public History, she earned an Master’s in Library and Information Science.  She completed multiple assistantships and internships including one at the Smithsonian Institute’s Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture (presently known as the Anacostia Community Museum), the Confederate Relic Room in Columbia, and the South Caroliniana Library.  After graduating, she moved to her current position as Processing Archivist at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, in Charleston, SC. Interview includes discussion of Mayo’s educational goals, which were shaped by her desire to find intellectual satisfaction in a career and to care for her family.  She also discussed the value of her M.A. work at UofSC to her intellectual interests and career goals.

 

Keywords

African American Studies | Anacostia Community Museum | Archive Studies | Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture | College of Charleston | Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum | Library and Information Science | Smithsonian Institute | South Caroliniana Library | Women in Color in Academia

 

Transcript

Justin Curry Davis:  We are live now.  It is recording.  Thank you for meeting with me, with the Public History Department project.  We are interviewing as many of the former alumni of the program as possible in order to get a sampling of people’s experiences of the program throughout its history.  For the record, what is your name?

Georgette Mayo:  Georgette Leona Mayo.

JD:  When did you enter the program?

Georgette Mayo:  September, really August, of 2002.

JD:  When did you graduate?

GM:  I did a joint Masters of Library Science and Public History specializing in archival management, so it took a little bit longer.  I graduated in December of 2005.

JD:  2005. So we’re just going to talk about your experience here.  Feel free to tell me what you want to.  I’ve got a few set questions here.

GM:  Okay.

JD:  But I’m happy to deviate as necessary.  Before I turned the recorder on, I was asking about what you had brought with you to the meeting here.

GM:  Well, what was a requirement, I don’t know if it is still the same, was to do a Public History portfolio.  I was, as I said, in the archival management track.  My faculty advisor, who was also the co-director, was Dr. Constance Shultz.  We referred to [her] as Connie.  It’s a sample of basically all the projects that I participated in: my internships, my assistantships, a little sampling of everything of that I have done.  It begins with the Curriculum Vitae.  It’s been a while since I’ve looked at this.  I keep it at my office at my work.  When I look at it, it’s like, yeah, I did a lot of stuff.

JD:  Where do you work?

GM:  I’m an archivist at the Avery Research Center for African American history and culture, which is part of the College of Charleston.

JD:  In Charleston, South Carolina.

GM:  Yes.

JD:  And you were telling me a little bit about that before we started the recording.  Was that the job that you wanted when you started the program, the sort of thing that you hoped for yourself?

GM:  Definitely, because I want to be an archivist in a museum setting.  So I do, and I still after ten years, I still refer to Avery as my dream job.  I’ve done a little everything.  When I say that:  we’re an archive, we’re a small museum, and we’re a cultural center for public programing.  So I think I’ve done everything outside of actually curating an exhibit, and hang paintings upon the wall.

JD:  How big is the exhibit at Avery?

GM:   Well, we have three galleries.  We have a changing gallery on the second floor. We also have a model classroom of the eighteenth century when it was first established in 1867.  On the second floor, sorry, on the third floor, we have two galleries.  The largest one being the McKinley Washington Auditorium, which is integral to the school.  It was used during the time that Avery was a school known as the Avery Normal Institute.  It became the Avery Institute in the1940s to the time it closed in 1954.  We also have the Benjamin and Jeanette Cox Gallery.  Benjamin Cox was second African American principal at Avery in 1916.  The first was Francis Cardozo.  He only lasted, I think, a little bit more than a year.  Francis Cardozo was of mixed heritage.  He was part African American.  After that, because Avery was administered by the American and Missionary Association, who established schools for African Americans throughout the South during the time of Reconstruction.  After Frances Cardozo, they had white teachers and white principals.  So having Benjamin Cox was another new beginning for the school because, not only was he African American, the teachers became African American also.

JD:  So, your education before you came into graduate school?

GM:  Was here, at the University of South Carolina.  I was a non-traditional student.  I went back to school in my late thirties.  I was a transfer student.  I started off at Midlands Tech, came here, and majored in African American Studies.  Many people at the time would ask, “well, what are you going to do with that, are you going to teach?” I always felt like there were more ways to teach people outside of being in a classroom, which was why I was very interested in the University’s Public History program.  Because I grew up in Brooklyn New York, and my mother used to take me to museums and libraries.

So I had that as a good background, and I figured that if I was going to go back to school, I wanted to do the things that I had an interest in.  I had an interest in, obviously, African American Studies.  I was always interested in African [American Studies].  I always wanted to know about not only history, but my history.  Something that I didn’t get in grammar school or high school.  So I’m always up for a challenge.  When I applied for school, I also wanted to do the joint degree.  It really enticed me in regards to doing joint masters in library science.

JD:  How did you come across the Public History program and the Library Science?  Was it something you thought about while you were still and undergraduate here?

GM:  Very much so.  I will refer to my children a lot.

JD:  That’s fine.

GM:  They’re my motivation, my encouragement.  I knew when I went back to school, it was a sacrifice for everybody involved.  I figured that if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this to the best of my ability.  So I did my research.  While I was at Midlands, I came to USC a lot.  I started connecting with professors, with the potential programs that I was interested in.  It seemed that the African American Studies was my likely choice.  I had taken some classes at Midlands Tech.  Originally, I was going to be a psychologist.

JD:  Really?

GM:  When I was at Midlands, that was my field of study.  Then I realized that, they have to administer a lot of tests, and I don’t like testing.  I was challenging myself, the reason I returned to school was to challenge myself.   Because I really didn’t like taking tests, I thought if I’m going to do this, I’m going to have to take tests.

Anyway, while at Midlands, I kept coming, and they have programs, especially speakers.  I saw Angela Davis speak here through the Women’s Studies Program while I was at Midlands.  I would always keep my ears open, because I knew I was going to be transferring here.  It was a natural fit.  I didn’t graduate with a degree.  I just took enough classes to know that I would be able to transfer here.  And once I got here and knew that I wanted to take African American Studies, I had major interest in history also.  So when I found out about the Public History program, I was like, this was a natural fit.  And I always felt that, in order to have the history, it has to be documented.  Unfortunately, a lot of things in our culture are not documented.  That presents another challenge, doing what we’re doing right now:  having oral histories and having secondary materials, a back-up of some things a person has said; we want that here also.

JD:  I image that kind of attitude influences both your interest in Public History and Library Science?

GM:  Right.

JD:  The archiving?

GM:  I’m really thankful that I was in the archival track.  Unfortunately, I know that they don’t have an archival track anymore.

JD:  That’s true.

GM:  One of my co-workers says, “You know, you are part of a dying breed.”  Because archival management is more so library science. It’s more technical, which is odd.  But I find that having that public history background [is vital]. Attending history classes along with fellow Masters students, fellow Ph.D. students, I definitely find that an edge. Because it provided me the tools to do research.  Whereas many archivists, I find, will not; many archivists, I do find, they don’t have that type of background.  So they just go in and, sort of narrowly, but the bottom line is that you do need to go in and do the research in on the person on whom you’re processing the collection.  You could look at something and say, “it doesn’t matter.”  Then somebody else with a little bit more insight will look at it like, “No, no, this is a clue here.”  (Laughs) So you go in with a historian’s mind.

JD:  So that’s very much influenced your actual work at Avery?

GM:  Oh definitely, definitely.

JD:  Both in your archiving and your contact with the museum collection there?

GM:  Right.

JD:  Did you take any museums classes here?

GM:  Yes I did.  I almost had enough courses to do the actual certificate, but I never fulfilled it.

JD:  Did you take any of the preservation classes?

GM:  No.

JD:  You stuck with the archiving?

GM:  Right.

JD:  Which seems to have served you [well].  What would you say the big themes of your graduate education were and how have these impacted your career?

GM:  I don’t know as far as, well, yes, my interests were and still is with African American women.  When I first got to Avery, I was able to work on a lot of women’s collections.  Now it’s a little bit of everything, and I seem to be working on many larger collections.  In grad school, you do a little bit of everything.  I’ve taken a lot of material culture classes, which I found fascinating.  Things that you wouldn’t think that, you know, have any significance.

You’re learning about the history, how people, how a person, how an entity incorporates brands, a certain product, like the George Forman Grill.  Dr. Casey Greer, who is no longer with us [with University of South Carolina], I was one of her students. She was also a person that I used to come visit before I decided to be in the Public History program. I had taken the class with her in regards to material culture. We were all given . . . She literally went around with a hat with, you had to pick a choice out of the hat.  I got the George Forman Grill. A lot of this in my portfolio has to do with the George Forman Grill. (Laughs) All these things make you think the cliché, outside the box.  Think creatively, and be able to apply those things in whatever you’re doing.  One way or another.

JD:  Even George Forman.

GD:  Yes.  See different possibilities, of objects.  Obviously, my basis was with African American history and culture, and I was able to do a lot of field archivist work.  I still worked with a lot of the professors that I knew in my undergraduate, namely, Dr. Valinda Littlefield and Dr. Bobby Donaldson. I was fortunate when I was an undergraduate to take their courses when they first came to the college, I mean to the University. Excuse me, I was thinking of the College of Charleston not USC. I was always keen on gaining all their knowledge. They knew I was interested in archives, and that I was perusing going into the joint degree.

Two of my major projects really were working as a field archivist.  One with the Ross Lee Douglass Collection.  She worked under the Reagan Administration, under the Department of Energy.  We were able to bring her collection in and, ironically, she lived out within the Mount Pleasant community that’s adjacent to the City of Charleston.

JD:  Um-hum.

GD:  Very fascinating woman. She’s no longer with us. But she happened to call when I was working at the South Caroliniana Library as an intern. And she said she was recommended by our Armstrong Williams, who has his collection at the South Caroliniana.  Armstrong Williams is a noted African American political commentator. I listened to him sometimes on Sirius XM talk radio.  He was a staunch . . . he would not affiliate himself, but I think he is a staunch Republican.  So Ross Lee Douglass and her husband was a columnist, and I had the good fortune of processing his collection at Avery [after his death].

The other major collection that I brought in that I heard is now processed, and I’m very happy for that, is an attorney, John Roy Harper.  I made the comparison that was Ms. Douglass’s Collection was neat and proper, and it was easy to process John Roy Harper’s was, he saved everything.

JD:  Really?

GD:  I mean, even down to the actual full newspapers.  I worked with him until he passed away.  He passed away from lung cancer.  I worked with his sister.  He had several storage units in town.  I would go out to his storage unit, and I would meet his sister.  And we would go through his papers.  A lot of them were full newspapers, and she would know exactly, she would look in the newspaper, and she would know exactly what she was interested in.  I found that amazing.  That’s something that I was trained to do, and I think of her when I do that.

JD: (unintelligible at 18:20)

GM:  You learn a little bit of everything.  I learned that when I was working with her when I was in the master’s program here.  Looking at a person’s collection and getting a little bit of insight of what they are already have in the collection.  If they have a full newspaper, was she going to look and see if they haven’t cut it out, is there something about them, or is it something that they are interested in.  It’s knowing, having that little bit of insight.  Because we are not going to keep the whole newspaper.

JD:  Exactly.

GM:  (Laughs)

JD:  So your historian training comes in handy here?

GM:  Oh definitely, definitely.  Even though my forte, my devotion, my passion is in African American history and culture, I never wanted somebody to say, “that’s all you know.”  Now, I always say that African American history is American history.  But I did take a very interesting internship and I am very happy that I did, and it was at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room.

JD:  Really.

GM:  Yes.

JD:  So, I’m interested to hear about your experience there.

GM:  I worked initially with a former alum, Sarah Wooton, who was wonderful.  I learned so much from her. There are are some things that I learned from her that I used today. When I’m instructing some of our graduate students that we get from the college, and she says, you know, I will never give you busy work and I will always explain to you the part that you’re doing and how it fits into a bigger picture.  It will make sense to you in the long run. So I always carried that with me because that made so much sense to me.  Because, when you have, when you’re instructing somebody and you have a new student and they are totally oblivious to what are archives, and why are they important.  You have to take the time to explain to them, yes, this is a small part of a bigger picture.  This is whatever you’re doing, this is how it fits into the bigger picture.  So it might seem monotonous, it might seem boring, but it’s essential.

JD:  How long were you at the relic room?

GM:  I think I was there for at least a semester.

JD:  Was this an assistantship that you undertook?

GM:  Right.

JD:  A graduate assistantship.

GM:  Um-hum.  No, I don’t think it was an assistantship; I think it was an internship because I wasn’t paid for it.  I also worked in another department archiving.

JD:  How many assistantships and/or internships did you complete?

GM:  O my goodness, I’ll have to look. (Laughs)

JD:  For sure.  You brought your…

GM:  Yes, yes.

JD:  Your portfolio here. 

GM:  I’d say.  Okay. 

JD:  Were these internships all completed while you were a student, [those] on your CV in your portfolio?

GM:  Yes, let’s see.  Okay.  Prior to starting at joint program, I was fortunate enough to.  I gained a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture.  It started off as a community museum and it reverted back to a community museum because they never really wanted be The National African American Museum, which they have now on the Mall.

JD:  Right.

GM:  So it’s still an operation; it’s still in the Anacostia.  [It’s] a small city across the river in DC.

JD:  It’s a smaller operation than what just opened.

GM:  Right, but similarly, it’s a lot like Avery.  It’s an archive.  They have a large archival holding.  They have a lot of material culture, and they do a lot of programs for the community.  If I’m not mistaken, I think there’re on the Smithsonian schedule.  The only days I think they are closed are the major holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, maybe.  They do a lot of public programming.  I was a research assistant for an upcoming exhibit that they were working on, so I got to visit many of the different repositories in town and the National Archives.  In Maryland; Moreland Spingard Research Center (unintelligible at 23:50), and several others that I can’t think of offhand. It was wonderful; it was a ten week paid fellowship.  So I was very fortunate.  I called that bridge between my undergraduate [and] graduate degree.

JD:  Did you do that before you came into the program.

GM:  Um-hum.  Right after I graduated.

JD:  (unintelligible at 24:20) 

GM:  As I said, being the mother of three young children, I had to make my time profitable.  As far as knowledge goes, and I was looking for any and all opportunities that would help benefit my knowledge base and my potential career.  

JD:  It paid off for you. 

GM:  Yeah.  During that time of year in DC is über expensive.  

JD:  Yeah. 

GM:  I wound up living in a hostel, which worked out well because I called them beforehand when I located this hostel.  And I said, I’m a mature person, I don’t think I can be living with x amount of people in the same room.  And they said, oh no problem.  We have other interns and fellows, and we can pair you up with another, just one other student or fellow, so that worked out wonderful.  As the person I was partnered with, we got along royally.  We went out a lot as far as going to different cultural events.  Because that’s the wonderful thing about DC.  Even though it’s expensive, most of the cultural events are free.  So I took advantage of that.  But I wouldn’t have been able to take my children.

JD:  Because of the expense of living there? 

GM:  Yeah. 

JD:  That makes sense.  So when you came into the program, you did library science and the public history at the same time. 

GM:  Concurrently.  So there wouldn’t be any pubic history classes in the summer, so that gave me more time to work on my library science [courses].  

JD:  And some of these classes were online, even then?  Is that true, or else correspondence based? 

GM:  Um-hum. 

JD:  That gave you an opportunity to work year round on your degree. 

GM:  Right.

JD:  Did you complete an internship specifically for the Pubic History program as a component for graduating?

GM:  Do you mean the one at the Smithsonian?

JD:  The one at the Smithsonian, was that over the summer?

GM:  Yeah, that was prior to me entering the public history.

JD:  That counted toward your degree requirements?

GM:  I don’t think so.  I don’t know if they took it into consideration.

JD:  Is it in your portfolio here?

GM:  Yeah, if you want to take a look at it.  These are things that I had to do for my practicum and my graduate assistantship.  So I was at the Folk Life Resource Center at McKissick [Museum].  I worked with the South Carolina Broadcasting Association Archives at the McKissick.  I was at the South Caroliniana.  If I’m not mistaken, that was my first assistantship.

JD:  With?

GM:  South Caroliniana.

JD:  Was that a useful experience for you?

GM:  Oh yeah.  Definitely, definitely.

JD:  Did you work on campus here?  Were you working with the processing of archive materials?

GM:  I’m trying to think.  I was more so, I was reference.  So if a researcher would come in, I would make a request to see a collection.  I would go and get it.  Answer the telephone.  I did like inventory work, but nothing heavy duty.  I remember, I think, the first semester of our archival class, we had a group project, which was based out of the South Caroliniana.  I remember that more so than, being more hands on, than what I actually did as far as working with archives at the South Carolinaina.  It wasn’t until a couple of semesters later that I wound up working with the Ross Lee Douglas Collection.  And then, the woman’s collection I wound up working my thesis on:  Ethel Martin Bolden.

JD:  Right.

GM:  “The Pioneer Librarian”

JD:  How did you arrive at your thesis topic?

GM:  Meeting Ms. Bolden, I interviewed her briefly for a project that I was doing for my undergraduate degree, which was on the Colored State Fairs.  I was referred to her by a fellow mentor and good friend.  In fact, I would (unintelligible at 29:29)

JD:  Oh really.

GM: (Laughs) Yeah, Vennie Deas Moore, whom I considered the researcher’s researcher.  She wrote the book on African Americans in Columbia.  I used to follow her around campus, and “I’ll be your research assistant.”  And she said, “Anything in this book, needs to be for the research.”  That’s how I came on the Colored State Fairs.  So I said, “Geez, I was really amazed by that.  They had segregated fairs?”  This was taking it to the tenth degree, but that’s, yeah.  So she suggested that I speak to Ms. Bolden because she said that she had experience with the Colored State Fair.  So I did, and I was enamored by her.  I kept her in the back of my mind because of her experience with libraries and establishing why libraries in whatever school she was in.

What really struck me with Ms. Bolden, was that she wouldn’t profess into the profession because she really had a passion for it. She knew that she didn’t want to be a school teacher, even though she was initially.  But when she was first introduced to school libraries by being in libraries in college.  She said, “If I’m given the chance, this is really what I want to do.”  I was really enamored with her work and her involvement within the community.  She was really an activist in her own right.  She told me that activism doesn’t mean marching.  There is a time and place for that.  There are people to do that.  She liked working with people behind the scenes to see if, to make sure that laws were being adjusted and set for social justice.  I was . . . 

JD:  So you were interested in her political [activities] and her interest in the library profession as well. 

GM:  Yeah. 

JD:  I don’t think I had heard of Colored Fairs before either.  

GM:  Yeah. 

JD:  It makes sense, right?

GM:  Well, unfortunately. (Laughs) They had a State Fair for a week. Whenever that closed down, the African Americans in Columbia would have a week, which was really a big deal, because in many other places throughout the South, it was maybe a day, two days at the best.

JD:  Really.  Did you discover why that was?

GM:  Locality.  There were many people that were promoting the fairs for agricultural, for religious reasons.  Richard Carroll, who Dr. Donaldson has done a lot of research on, he was known as Columbia’s Booker T. Washington.

JD:  He was instrumental in this sort of thing?

GM:  At the second coming, there was an initial Colored State Fair in the late 1800s.  And then in 1910, the 1920s, Richard Carroll took up the Colored Stated Fair.  It was created so that it had a parade.

JD:  Sorry to put you on the spot about your research.

GM:  No. No.

JD:  It sounds like you are really passionate about it.  Have you done anything officially with it since you graduated?

GM:  Not so much with the Colored State Fair.  But I did have the wonderful opportunity, thank you to professors here, Dr. Valinda Littlefield and Dr. Margery Spruill, asked me to write a chapter in their book The South Carolina Women: Their Life and Times, Vol. 3.  Not only on Ethel Marin Bolden, but the person that Ethel Martin Bolden wrote her thesis on, Susan Dark Butler, who opened up her father’s reading room in Charleston, South Carolina to become the Charleston Colored Free Public Library, which is now still in existence and coming up on its ninetieth year of existence.

JD:  So you’re falling into a tradition, actually, with your project?

GM:  My challenge was to obviously expand after fifty years, and you would think there would be a lot more things to uncover with Susan Dark Butler because Ethel Bolden wrote an additional bio on her.  I found a couple of things, not much, but I did find a couple of things.  But, obviously, not as much as Ethel Martin Bolden, who happens to be Charles Bolden’s Mother, and my thesis was to state that she was a lot more than the astronaut’s mother.

JD:  Right.

GM:  And nothing against the head [administrator] of NASA.

JD:  No, of course not.  So thinking back on the more mundane details of your time here, did any professors stick out to you as being especially influential?

GM:  Oh my goodness.  I think at the beginning of my thesis I did state a lot of them.  (Laughs) 

JD:  Very true.

GM:  Sincerely, they all have taken a wonderful part in—it takes a village.  I think I mentioned that.  I’m very fortunate to have been nurtured here, to have been motivated, to have been encouraged while I was here.  And I’m really proud to say I’m a graduate of this program.  Dr. Connie Schulz, my kids refer to her as momma.

JD:  Really.

GM:  Yeah.  In the beginning of the semester, she would have a welcoming party.  Of course, she would invite my children.  My children would be, and I always say, they were into the entertainment because she had this little swimming pool and we would all be outside.  They would be in the swimming pool having fun, acting like normal kids do.  Everybody would be looking at them.  (Laughs) 

She was always very welcoming.  My kids would always remember her, and have fond memories of her.  But getting back to the academics, I was definitely challenged, but that’s why you are in grad school.  And I was always motivated to do my best, and to seek opportunities.  She was always a cheerleader for me.  She nominated me for several different scholarships in regards to archival field, which I am definitely appreciative for.  The mundane stuff was juggling.  (Laughs)

JD:  Like school and life?

GM:  Life and school: being a mother of young children, working, being gainfully employed along with doing assistantships, and then looking out for scholarships.  But if I was to do it over again, no, I glad to have done it.

JD: You definitely seem to have had the broadest of the assistantships, certainly more than required, more than I have seen.

GM:   Really, cool, yeah.

JD:  Was it helpful to have so many different professional experiences on your CV?

GM:  Definitely; I’m not sure about the other fields.  It would make sense that it would be, public history is a lot more outside of the class driven.  Of course, you have your theories in class, but you really can’t put those theories into use until you’re actually doing it.

JD:  Right.

GM:  I mean to give students books and just say read this and not have any practical experience to actually implement those things, or see where they are challenges with those theories (pause).  It would be a terrible disservice to any student to wait until it’s time to graduate, and say “okay, you’re out on your own.”  That’s another kudos to the program.  They immerse you in the real world as soon as possible with the internships, the fellowships, the assistantships.

JD:  Did you feel like the program did a good job of helping you do that?

GM:  Yes.  But then again, it always falls back on the student.  And I always say to students, that I work with the College of Charleston “You’re undergraduate is one thing, you’re learning the lay of the land, but by the time you’re a grad student, you have to have your game stepped up.  And you have to take advantage of your education.”  People can help guide you, and make suggestions, but you have to be able to do it.  You have to be able to find your own opportunities and create your own niche.  It’s your life and your own career.

JD:  It sounds like you were successful in doing that as a student and in your career.

GM:  Thank you.  I also think too, timing is everything.  I wasn’t ready ten, fifteen years prior.  I wouldn’t have had that insight.

JD:  This was very much a second life for you, wasn’t it?

GM:  Um-hum.

JD:  Coming back to school.  Both your undergraduate and graduate.

GM:  Um-hum.  Again, my kids motivated me to.  I was married.  I had challenges within the marriage at the time, and I knew the bottom line is our kids have to be supported financially.  (Laughs) Not only intellectually, but financially.

JD:  So you weren’t just here for your own intellectual growth.

GM:  I was on a mission.  I was on a mission.  But I was making the best of all worlds.  I didn’t want to go into a program where I knew I was going to be miserable.  That was going to be self-defeating.

JD:  And you had then, based on your undergraduate experience, a pretty good idea that this would be helpful for you.  Both this, the public history, and the library science.

GM:  Right. And I knew that true, I could have gone somewhere else, but I was fortunate that USC had a wonderful program. And it gave me flexibility. It gave me opportunity that I didn’t have to relocate to another place that I didn’t know anything about, and try to acclimate my children to a new environment.  So I’m really thankful for this program being here. And as I say, I’m glad to be able to have done through the archival program while it was still in existence.  (Laughs)

JD:  Well, maybe that’s a good way of transferring to what, thinking to when you were a student and after a little bit, what do you think could have been done differently.  Or would you have had anything done differently in the program while you were here?

GM: Maybe in regards to technology, because what I’m dealing with now:  is because my background is in manuscript archives, which there’s nothing wrong with that—I like the tactile; I like the feeling documents.  Handling.  It’s like books.  I like handling even though I have the iPad and all that bling. What’s the buzz word now is the technology and the encoded archival description.  So I’m back to square one in learning which best platform to input and all that good stuff.  I could put together a process of collection. And it’s being able to put it into archival description. Yeah; I’m not sure if that’s what the library science area is doing now.  I would think that they would be.  Dr. Jennifer Marshall, who I had when she first came here, over what, ten years ago. I just took basic archival classes with her.

JD:  And then you took . . .

GM:  But you know I graduated, because I only think I took two classes at the most with her.

JD:  How many did you take with Connie Schulz here?

GM:  I want to say at least two.  So it was basically an Intro. to Archives.

JD:  Did you notice a difference between the way those classes were taught:  Dr. Marshall’s in the Library School and Dr. Schulz here in the History Department?

GM:  Well, it with Dr. Schulz’s, hers was obviously more hands on.  You actually had a practicum, you were actually working with a collection.  Whereas, when I took Dr. Marshall’s class, we talked about into a bigger scheme of things.  It was more so reference, library reference.  As I said, I would be curious to know what exactly she is teaching now because it’s been a while.  I should have asked her, because I just saw her in the meeting I was in.

JD:  Really.  I actually took a class with her too.

GM:  So what did she teach, if you don’t mind me asking?

JD:  The class I took with her wasn’t Intro. to Archiving, it was, I believe it was entitled Archival Management.

GM:  Okay.

JD:  So was about doing archive work, but not so much a how to guide about how people are interacting with the digital changes, with paper in the digital world, and these kinds of topics.  It wasn’t meant to instruct you on how this is how you put together a folder.

GM:  Right.

JD:  The idea is that you’ll do that kind of thing with an actual internship or early on in a job.  I couldn’t speak to the entire department.

GM:  Yeah.

JD:  So it sounds like you would like to see us do something with archiving still.

GM:  Yeah, definitely.

JD:  Do you feel like that’s a loss, that that’s not a direct track anymore?

GM:  But then again, as I said, I’m not really sure exactly what’s being done.  But yeah, if it was an archival track and basically taking it to the next level.  Particularly with digitization.  (pause) On my end, I do have some concerns about it.

JD:  And since you’re working in that field, do you see that people came in without that specialization might have a hard time doing what you do?

GM:  No; I don’t think it would be a hard time.  It’s just to have an understanding.  What I’ve seen, unless it’s like a curated presentation that’s online that happens to be on a digital library.  Things from somebody’s collection are just put up in no kind of order.  And that sort of bothers me because when I process a collection, I process it not only with a historian’s frame of mind, but also with a researcher’s, a user’s frame of mine.

JD:  Right.

GM: How is my finding aid going to help or hinder a researcher in finding what they want to find as quickly as possible. How is the finding aid going to inform a person? Whereas, if you’re on a digital platform, and you’re looking for something specific, and you have to go through so many pages that’re not in any type of logical order, I know it throws me off.

JD:  That makes complete sense to me.

GM:  And I’m not saying that, it’s just some of the few things that I’ve seen.

JD:  Would you say that this has to do with the people who maybe just have a library science training as opposed to graduate work in humanities, history in particular?

GM:  Yeah.  And I don’t think the person who’s actually doing the scanning and the metadata is getting instructions from somebody else saying you need x amount of linear feet in such and such a time because you’re on a grant.  And you have to get this up ASAP. (Laughs)

JD:  Which then sacrifices some of the organization.

GM:  Right.

JD:  That’s unfortunate.

GM:  Yeah.  If an insightful researcher happens to know about the collection, and they happen to look at a finding aid of the completed collection, and then go to, let’s say, a digital library source, and look for that, they’re obviously going to think, well gee, it should be in some sort of order like a finding aid is. That adds some more confusion.

JD:  Right. Not consistent. 

GM:  Right.

JD:  Well, so we’ve gone through a lot of your experiences here and in your career.  You’ve been graduated from the program for a little over ten years, right?

GM:  Um-hum.

JD:  That’s enough time to have had a full career in your chosen profession.  Do you have anything to say about what your vision would be for the program as it moves forward, both as it applies to my group who will be graduating, but also to the students who will be just coming in?

GM:  Well, one thing that I think I did not talk about, when I first came into the program, we all knew it was an issue, and I’m not sure if it’s still an issue, but diversity.

JD:  Okay.

GM:  I came in with another person of color, and unfortunately that person did not complete the program.  The public history component was very lacking in that diversity.

JD:  And did you feel like you were the only one that noticed that, or were there others?

GM:  Oh no, everybody knew that.  And it’s not that the directors, Dr. Weyeneth and Dr. Schulz were, I mean, I think they did their best, but they knew it was a problem.  I don’t think they had to recruit me.  They didn’t have to say, “Oh Georgette, we have this wonderful program here.”  I knew about the program.  It’s the same thing with the Library School.  Now, of course, the Library School has a little more diversity going on.  They know, they’re very much conscious of it also.  They are seeking better means.  They write their mission statement, their vision statement, their goals: it has many diversity buzzwords in it.  Not only with students, but with faculty.  It goes both ways.

I think when I go to conferences, at say the society of American Archivists, I’m pleasantly happy.  I see a lot more diversity, which is a good thing.  I would like to think that myself working at Avery, when I did a stent as interim director at Avery and I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the History Makers, which is a program that is now part of the Library of Congress.  But its director was very motivated to promote diversity within the archival field.  History Makers, let me backup if you’re not familiar with it, the director, and I can’t remember, Julienne (with hesitation) Richardson.  And she has gained oral history videos of not only notable African Americans, but under-the-radar African Americans throughout America and through all different fields:  community workers, activists, all different types of professions.  Within the last several years, it has been acquired by the Library of Congress.  So we worked for her prior to them being acquired by the library of congress, the oral histories.  And she asked several different institutions to sign on to our IMLS grant to promote diversity within libraries, and particularly archives.  I, serendipitously, I’m really proud to say that our first History Maker fellow, Aisha Heikel, is now going to be my manager of Archival Services.  (Laughs) 

JD:  Really.  So It’s been successful. 

GM:  Yes, very much so. 

JD:  I would say that the current public history class is at least, in terms of race, is not especially diverse at the moment.  Male to female, the current class, I believe, is all female.  

GM:  Umm. 

JD:  So we are diverse in some ways.  Was that true when you were in the History Department, as far as male to female ration. 

GM:  We had a lot of males. 

JD:  So it was more balanced to males? 

GM:  It was more equal. 

JD:  My class was much smaller.  It was a much smaller group than the current one is too.  There were two males and one female.  

GM:  Umm.

JD:  That came in as just public history students.  So I think it is good that you bring this up.  And I can say as a student in the program, we do talk about this still.  That’s at least encouraging from that standpoint, at least. 

GM:  It’s always been on the table.  When I was there, it was on the table, but then again it wasn’t.  We really didn’t talk about it as students, per se. As I said, how I came about public history outside of knowing that the program was here while I was an undergraduate, I basically sought it out because I knew that I didn’t want to be a teacher, and I knew that history needed to be preserved.  To me, that was a no brainer.  But to other people who have no idea what public history is and maybe have never really stepped, had any interest in going to a museum, libraries yes, because we all at one point or another, come in contact with a library.

 JD:  Right.

GM:  Whether we like it or not.  (Laughs)

JD:  Yeah; that’s true.

GM:  Introducing it to students.  I was even suggesting with the new recruiting that they have in the Library School.  You know, middle school.  They say the program that they have with Cocky, with preschoolers and grade school students, that’s one thing, but actually thinking of an actual career, I think a middle school student would probably be able to grasp it better as far as possibilities of doing these things.

JD:  Let it set in earlier?

GM:  Yeah.  I sort of figure that once you’re in high school—and that might be changing with technology—a lot more students are gearing toward technology until they find out what exactly it entails.

JD:  Maybe, but it’s easy to get distracted with technology too.

GM:  Right.

JD:  Maybe that’s a different conversation.  You mentioned, though, early on that the Library School had done a better job of presenting themselves as a far as diversity goes.  Why do you think that might be?  Is the History Department too traditional?

GM:  I have to think too, and I have to ask, I hope you don’t mind me deferring to you, because you’re actually in it.  Public history works so closely within the History Department.  How diverse is the History Department?  And then, you’re also thinking of economics.  Would you be able to do what you’ve been trained to do once you graduate?  Will you be that professor?  Will you be that curator?  Will you be that preservationist?  Once you graduate, will there be a job waiting for you?  That weighs on the mind of many people.  (Laughs) No matter what color you are.

JD:  I think that’s probably a common experience for everybody.

GM:  Yeah.

JD:  But then how those decisions are made.

GM:  Right.  So, branding.  I don’t know.  Seeing other people of the same ethnicity doing and functioning in that arena.

JD:  As an M.A. student, though, your comments on diversity, would you say they apply to the entire department as a whole, the Ph.D. students and the M.A. students?

GM:  But then I don’t know how many people of color are in your Ph.D. program.

JD:  I mean back when you were in the program.

GM:  I know two of my colleagues.  One wasn’t really in history, but she worked a lot with us.  She was in education.  I had another colleague that, she went on to get her Ph.D.  She was in the history track; she wasn’t in public history.  We ended up taking a lot of classes together because we were required to take history classes.

JD:  Have you kept up with the people you met there.

GM:  Gee, I don’t think so.  Yes and no.

JD:  Did you feel like the program, as far as a graduate program here, the Ph.D. students the M.A. students, especially the public history students, did you feel like they were well integrated with each other.  Or were they separate worlds that only integrated when it was necessary?

GM:  No.  I felt we were well integrated.  But then again maybe that was my experience.

JD:  That’s all I’m asking you to speak for.

GM:  One thing I want to say too.  When I was looking at your website.  I was trying to refresh myself with your website.  I remember what you wrote in the email.  I was on a road trip to D.C. for when the public History Department won the Robert Keller award back in 2002.

JD:  So that’s been some time ago.

GM:  Yeah.  For distinguished and outstanding achievements in public history.

JD:  And it’s still there.

GM:  I was pretty proud of that.  Connie had me, as one of the students to ride the van—we took a van load of students.  Now, keep in mind, I was just accepted into the Public History program department.  I was still an undergraduate.

JD:  Oh really.

GM:  Yeah.  I was getting ready to graduate that next month in May.  What was so sweet about it was that I had just found out that the fellowship to the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Museum.  It was in D.C.  So I was able to actually personally hand-deliver my paper work to the office in D.C. while I was there.

JD:  A lot of good things happened to you in a row right there.  And you brought an iPad here with the Public History website up on it.

I think that you have some good comments for us here.  Asking about vision, it’s good that you come through here.  It’s done something for you, it sounds like, I don’t want to speak for you.

GM:  Oh definitely.  Oh definitely.  As I’ve said, I’m honored, and I’m really glad to do this oral history because I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for this program, and my initiative in doing the work.  (Laughs)

JD:  And you did it. 

GM:  Exactly.  Exactly. 

JD:  Do you have anything else you would like to add as far as what you would like to see done, maybe with these oral histories or the program itself? 

GM:  If you can inform me of how these oral histories will [be used].  I know this is a class project. 

JD:  It is. 

GM:  And it’s for how many decades? 

JD:  It’s quite a few.  At least forty. 

GM:  Forty, that’s what I thought. 

JD:  There’s some speculation about the dates depending on whom you ask.  Maybe that’s not the most important thing, but since we’re historians we like to split hairs over such issues.  These will be archived, as long as you sign the release form, which I’ve brought with me.  You don’t have to. 

GM:  No, I will; I will. 

JD:  As far as the class project, we’re in a position within the larger university, not only USC, but the pubic.  What is the value of the humanities?  We’re interested in history in particular because we’re in the History Department.  How do we best communicate that idea both to administrators in the College of Arts and Sciences here in Columbia and the broader community.  That’s the hope of the class project, that we find a way of justifying the Public History program as useful people that are in it (or not).  If not, we want to know why that is. 

GM:  Right. 

JD:  This isn’t just about collecting.  About the History Department, you’ve had some good things to say and some things you would like to have done differently.  That’s the way life is.  

GM:  Right. 

JD:  We’re hoping to gather this type of information.  Somebody in the future could use these oral histories for a project they are working on.  In the more temporary future, we’re looking at creating a product that helps us understand why we’re here, looking at the people who’ve come before us.  Hopefully that will translate to our community at broad.  Our degree in particular, Public History, has this community oriented aspect. 

GM:  As well as should be.  I feel that public history in itself is more accessible to ordinary, everyday people that quote-unquote do not like history.  We are history.  We create history just by our existence.  It doesn’t seem like it.  I tell this to our students and the people who come to Avery:  it’s not just for notable people, it’s for ordinary people.  I think that’s why we’re having challenges by what we’re going through in the political session we’re having right now [2016 election].  (Laughs) 

JD:  Oh dear.  

GM:  Not mentioning names. 

JD:  It’s your interview.  (Laughs) 

GM:   If people knew what happened a long time ago.  We’re visiting a lot of things that have already happened.  

JD:  Exactly.  I like how you talked earlier that your interest in life is not being a teacher per se, as far as standing in a class and lecturing.  But you do find value in being an educator in your work, as an historian, as an archivist, as a citizen? 

GM:  Right.  And it’s actively participating in it every single day.  You can say you don’t like something, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t in it, that you aren’t involved in it. 

JD:  Very true.  

GM:  In regards to a profession, I’m very proud to say that I am a public historian, functioning as one, trying to do the best that I can as one, and trying to incorporate making it relevant to people.  That’s what I mean about teaching outside the classroom, making history relevant to everyday people.  

JD:  It’s a tall order, but it’s what we’re here to do. 

GM:  Yeah. 

JD:  Well thanks so much for all of your comments and stories with me.  We’ve been talking for over an hour now. 

GM:  Yes.  

JD:  A good time, I think, to go through these things.  I don’t have any other particular questions.  Would you like to add anything else to the record before we stop the recording? 

GM:   No; I just appreciate you and this project.  I wish is the most success possible.  I know about having to justify your existence.  We do that daily over at the Avery. (Laughs) We always have to justify our existence.  I only wish the best for public history, and that it sustains itself.  It’s essential.  It’s vital.  It’s important.  And may grow and continue. And thank you. 

JD:  Thank you too.  It’s been a pleasure to interview you.  I’m going to turn off the recorder now. 

GM:  And I did this as a backup (pointing to her phone recorder).

End of Interview