Lori Schwartz

Return to Interviews

Interviewee: Lori Schwartz
Interviewer: Maurice Robinson
Date: October 31, 2016
Accession #: PHP 025
Length of Recording: 36:21
Sound Recording
Summary

Lori Schwartz, a native of Kansas City, earned her B.A. from Truman State University in Missouri. At University of South Carolina she worked under Dr. Connie Schulz and received a dual degree in Library Science and Public History. At the time of the interview, she was an archivist for the Chuck Hagel Papers and documents at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Interview includes discussion of Schwartz’s path to attending the Public History Program, her time at the England Field School, her experiences in traditional history seminars, and public history pedagogy. Schwartz also reflected on the importance of graduate assistantships and benefits of attending the Public History Program.

 

Keywords

Assistantships and Internships | Chuck Hagel Papers | England Field School | Kansas City | Library Science | Truman State University | University of Nebraska, Omaha | Connie Schulz

 

Transcript

Maurice Robinson: Okay. My name is Maurice Robinson. I am meeting and talking with Lori Schwartz, who is an alumnus of the USC Public History program and she is talking with us today…the thirty-first of October over the phone and we are going to get right into it. Lori, thank you for agreeing to meet with us. I hope you had a good day so far. How’s your Monday on a Halloween going?

Lori Schwartz: It’s going fabulous. I’m so happy to be here. Thanks.

MR: Perfect. All right. Well, first off…what do you do now? Where are you at in the world since you graduated from USC and what year did you graduate?

LS: I graduated in two thousand and four from the Master’s program. Thankfully, I got to stay at the University of South Carolina for about ten more years and then I moved to Omaha, Nebraska in January of two thousand and fifteen to become the Chuck Hagel archivist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, which is a campus at the University of Nebraska (Unintelligible 1:10).

MR: That’s a very big deal actually. You’re doing…not doing but you’re an archivist for Chuck Hagel’s papers or just sources in general?

LS: Yeah. For his collection, he graduated from here and oftentimes congressmen donate their papers to their alma mater if their archives at the alma mater can handle it. Congressional collections are really big and — but thanks to me as the archives here decided to take them and another archivist worked on them for a few years and then I joined the crew last January. I worked with political collections at USC at the…well, now the Hollings Library — South Carolina Political Collection. It was kind of my little niche in the archives world.

MR: That’s very impressive. You answered like three or four questions already just in that one great paragraph. I appreciate that. That’s awesome.

LS: Sorry. (Unintelligible 2:01-04). Feel free to ask again.

MR: No. That’s really good. No. That is great. I mean you definitely are a public history historian. That is awesome. Or occupist both…I guess. Where are you from? What made you come to USC? Are you a native of South Carolina? Are you from Omaha? What’s your background to decide on coming to USC?

LS: You know South Carolina was a brand new place for me. I grew up in Kansas City and I did a history undergrad. I just didn’t really know what I wanted to do with that. Everyone else in the history program was gonna be a high school history teacher and like coach or they were gonna go be a professor or they were gonna go to law school. Those were the three avenues. I decided I didn’t want to do any of those. I was a page in a…like in a public library, where you put books back on the shelf in high school through college on break. I had gone through — this is old school, I had gone through one of those cabinets at the public library that hold index cards of career…career choices.

Yeah. Old school. I found one on archives and I think it was just on history…the history field in general but it included archives. So I marched back to my undergrad archives department in my junior year of college and said, “Do you have any jobs.” and they did. That was kind of my start in the archives world. I decided I want to pursue that in grad school. I did an internship at the Truman President Library, which was really influential in my young professional life. That was my junior going into senior year college. My mentor there had done a dual program in library and information science and history and she said, “It’s great because you get practical library stuff from the library degree that you just need to know and then you get like rich conversations through the seminars from a history side.” 

I was like, — okay that’s for me. I applied to three places on the east coast. My parents were like why are you only going far away and I said, “I’m sorry that the programs that I was interested in…there are archives programs in the Midwest but they didn’t…there were no good dual one except I think in Texas at the time. I didn’t want to go to Texas. Yeah, I got into all of them and I just…I chose South Carolina because…I don’t know people were really attentive. Connie Schulz was my advisor that…she was (Unintelligible 4:48) that year I think. Bob Weyeneth was like (Unintelligible 4:52), he was chaperoning all the new archives people that year…like the year before.

He was just really attentive as were other people there. I liked that idea of not being…its cliché…of not being a number like they actually want to meet and then off I went to South Carolina, which was interesting.

MR: That’s a very interesting…I guess course coming to…well, not course but that’s an interesting way to come to South Carolina just to Columbia. I like that. That’s interesting. Who did you have as your teacher…you told us your advisor was Connie Schulz…do you have other professors that you enjoyed or do remember enjoying the seminars or classes?

LS:  Yeah. I did. I took the…Connie was my advisor and she also team-taught the intro…the first class that all the public history students took. I don’t remember what it was called anymore but it was just public history students and they revamped things since then…I don’t even know if this particular class exists anymore but they team-taught and it was just a walk through the world of public history. It was a lot of fun actually. The two of them team teaching was great because they have completely different styles and that was just kind of fun for us.

I liked both of them and they’ve been around for a while and they’re just kind of cool people. They occasionally show up to student parties and other things like that and that just made them fun. Then I went with Connie to the field school in England — the summer of two thousand and two, after my first year and that was fabulous. It was just a great way to get to know seven classmates really well and get to know Connie more. I just love the whole design of that class. Then, on the pure history side, I took a seminar with Dr. Glickman, that is still my favorite history seminar….I think for me…yeah, that’s definitely my favorite history seminar.

It was just a lot of readings from the late eighteen hundreds through modern day and I still have a lot of those books on my shelf. I just loved everything — his book selection, his teaching style, discussions. The reading was fabulous. Then all down the library…I did do my master’s in library and information science and I had a number of good classes over there. Including like ones I wasn’t expecting like I took a library management course with Pat (Unintelligible 7:41), that was actually really fabulous and it kind of taught the skills that like everyone is gonna need at certain points like whether you’re an historian, librarian, archivist…whatever. Yeah, I’d say those professors were fairly influential for me.

MR: That’s very amazing. Can you elaborate on the field study you had in England? What is that about…where you go? Kind of what was the reason for being there? (Unintelligible 8:10) 

LS: Sure. At the time, Connie was doing an every year head to England with grad students — both public history and history course. It lasted five to six weeks and sometimes there will be some library students in there as well. Our year there were six public history students — all girls and there were two history students — both guys. God bless them. I still…most of them are still…I still stay in contact with. It’s five to six weeks mostly in Northern England. York, small town of Richmond. Then we do…well, we spent a week in York.

About three and a half weeks just in Northern England…rural Northern England. Going to all different sorts of places and then we spent a week…the final week in London. Basically, Connie…because she is Connie, has contacts all over, even like all these small towns in the English countryside. We toured museums, archives, libraries, historic preservation offices, castles, planning offices. Every kind of historic site you can imagine and basically just got to know the public history professionals of Northern England.

We learned all about how they do public history there. It was fascinating. We met with at least one professional everyday. Couple tours usually everyday. We would talk about them at night. We had kind of working to do like class dinners. We were all living together too, obviously. We have these public history discussions over a lot of wine and it was great. Part of the time we were staying at this English country house called Kiplin Hall. We would set out from there every day to a different locate around Northern England. We had a cook and we also, in between visits to historic sites and meeting with professionals, we had a project on site.

Me and two other girls. No, me and one other girl were processing the Kiplin Hall administrator papers. They had a long history as an old English country house. We literally got them out of a trunk that was in a bell tower on the property, which was just fabulous. They were just dusty and we had to lay out towels and we had gloves and we had a brush to brush off the documents. Sarah and I, we just sat and we cranked up the music and we figured out a way to organize things. We had a ton of fun. Four other girls were downstairs going through all the objects in the house collection and then trying to put order to…I think their object room.

I think the guys were off…they were off researching doing like pure history research…in a nearby archive. Yeah, we got the practical component like what is it like to do archives in another place, while also getting to just learn how they do it on site. It was a pretty amazing class. We were there…the summer of two-thousand and two, it was the year of the Queen’s Jubilee and it was also the year of…the year England did pretty well in the world cup as in DUS, that’s in the quarter finals. Being in England during soccer madness was a lot of fun. Since the U.S. was doing well too, everyone wanted to talk to us about that. There were flags everywhere and you can tell if it was like someone flying the flag cause they were really excited about the Queen’s Jubilee because it would be like the British flag but they were really excited about soccer, it would be the English flag cause of Scotland. They all have their own teams.

For the Queen’s Jubilee day, they recreated the lighting of all the…now, I’m losing my vocab completely but they lit on all the hillsides on the top of the town, they lit the lights to recreate the Spanish Armado landed or whatever. The whole town — we were Richmond at the time — gathered at the top of this hillside outside of the town. Took up little buses and we all lit the torches and then we watched as the next town over lit their torch and then they lit their torch. Everyone was singing like English patriotic songs and in the middle of nowhere someone comes up to Connie like, — Connie! Connie is like, — oh hi cause she knows people everywhere.

Its kind of just that experience. Yeah, pretty memorable. I would say that was my favorite part of grad school. Other than working but I liked that.

MR: That’s a very amazing story and experience. It sounds like you definitely, definitely got…I don’t know, just some amazing enrichment just from being there physically and just kind of soaking in all of the academic and social…I don’t know…environment. That’s awesome.

LS: Exactly. It was a good combination of the two. Yeah. It was pretty excellent.

MR: Well, I guess we can pin it back to good ole South Carolina. [Laughs] What was your social life like in terms of being in Columbia? Since you’re not from here. Did…is there any restaurants did you like or any places you hung out or…? What did you and your grad cohort do together? What was your experience like outside of the academic world?

LS: I hangout with the history side more than the library side. I think they just appreciated social gatherings more. Mostly, we…yeah…the public history…we were…our class was pretty close and the class behind us too. We had frequent parties especially at this one house. There was a house on…I don’t even know the road anymore but it was in the University Hill neighborhood. It was very near five points. Like you could…you could like throw a rock really hard to the Salty Nut Cafe. I don’t even know if that cafe is still there anymore. Right by the train tracks in five points.

This house had three apartments in it and all were occupied by public history students. The whole house just became like a fun place to have a party. We would occasionally invite history folks to…but we had a rule if we invited traditional history folks — they couldn’t talk about their thesis research and stuff like that. They had to be grown up people. Just conservations with traditional history students were always really awkward. They revolved around what were they…public history we had a ton of fun. One memory that I can’t help but attach to that house is the Halloween after we got back from England.

We were all second year students. We invited pretty much everyone from the history department and the house was rocking. We were all being probably not the most responsible in terms of what we were drinking. Connie Schulz shows up at eleven p.m. or something maybe midnight. We’re all having a great time and before I know it we’re all Congo lining around the living room with Connie leading it.

[Laughter]

I swear this happened. I swear. It was really fabulous. Anyway. We hungout together quite a lot. Lots of burnt porch conversations cause it had one of those swinging…one of the swings from the front porch. Let’s see we hungout in five points at specific places of course. Man, I can’t remember the names anymore. That’s so bad. I really liked that one fusion Korean-Mexican restaurant that’s on…that’s in five points. It’s near the tracks. The food takes forever to cook but it’s worth it. Oh man.

MR: I’m not sure.

LS: …with blue in it. Does that sound familiar at all? Anyway. We mostly just hungout at people’s houses. There was another house in Rosewood we would hangout at all the time. There was always weird stuff happening in the Rosewood neighborhood cause I was just entertaining and we got studying in there too. My studying happened mostly on Sundays. Saturdays were kind of my off day. I had a graduate assistantship and classes that kept me really busy, Monday through Friday and on Sundays. Saturday was my day to get out and — to get out and enjoy life.

MR: That sounds about right. That’s a very good regimen right there. That’s awesome. Hey, that was an interesting breakdown of the social life. Some things I think had not changed but I like your breakdown of the Congo line, that’s probably gonna be a classic right there.

LS: Yeah. I mean it happened. There are witnesses…many witnesses. Connie Schulz leading a Congo line.

MR: What was your final…you were in library sciences and public history. What was your final thesis or project? What was your culminating work?

LS: My thesis was on the involvement of women’s clubs in the development of public libraries in South Carolina. It was definitely more library focused. If I were to do it again, I would’ve probably done an archival project but I don’t know at the time they were pretty hard to integrate into a scholarly thesis. I went with the library route with that one. I had a professor over in the library school side named Bob Williams who helped me kind of get that going. I had…gosh, Bob Williams, Connie Schulz, and Dr. Glickman maybe as my three readers. Boy, it’s kind of fuzzy now.

That’s what I did. It was interesting because to see all the stuff women’s groups were doing back in the day and how integrally they were involved in the public library development. Enjoyable. In terms of what kind of made my sort of the…the big thing that made my time worth it at USC was my graduate assistantship. It meant kind of more to me than what happened in the classes honestly. That was at South Carolina political collection. Without that I wouldn’t have gotten the job after that that kept me in South Carolina.

I wouldn’t have gotten this job. I think a lot of really, really informative stuff happened in graduate assistantships. It’s not that way for everyone but I know me and a number of classmates it was that way.

MR: Awesome. Can you break down…I think you told us why you chose archives from your career card from…back in undergrad. Once you been in the grad program, can you tell us why you chose public history versus a museum education program, archival program? What is your opinion of a specialized graduate education?

LS: My opinion of the…what my opinion on archives versus the other area? Or public history versus history or just…getting your graduate education in history…

MR: Well, I think there are not a lot of public history programs in general that focus on the type of classes and formatting that you all had at USC. There are other schools apparently that give just only museum education or just only archives. Why did you stick with public history as the route you want to take?

LS: When I was applying to that school, I did apply to other programs that were just strict history and library science as the dual program and but I really like the public history focus because archivists don’t work in a vacuum. We work pretty closely with our museum colleagues in a lot of ways…maybe not so much with our historic site colleagues…maybe a little bit. The connections I have…in Omaha for example are people at an art museum and history museum and boys town, which is like (Unintelligible 21:35-37) and places like that. I have some archivist friends there but cultural heritage is just a really rich area. I loved that combination knowing all those people.

My two best friends while I was at USC, one was a (Unintelligible 21:56) student and one was a historic preservation student. The three of us had a lot of fun together — learned a lot from each other. I would like occasionally help them. I would help them cloak their research by visiting sites with them. Learned quite a lot from my historic preservation about like…beings, and nails at historic sites and what those told me about the history of the building and stuff like that. I think I learned a lot from my museum colleagues there…my museum student colleagues there.

The debt has paid off cause I came to a collection here at Omaha that have a lot of paper obviously and digital files but also has over a thousand museum objects that I’m responsible for. I’m really, really glad I went with the public history program and specifically got public history program…I think.

MR: That’s very amazing. That’s very, very amazing. Can you break down…you did explain to us here assistant…your graduate assistantship at USC…in your opinion how integral is that to the overall experience of being a public history student here at USC? Is it something that they need more of…less of? Did it make you more appreciative of your degree? What was that dynamic like?

LS: That was a really important part to me. It was one of the reasons why I ended up going to USC was the graduate assistantship. The one I had lined up it was with South Carolina Political Collection…then Modern Political Collection. Another school I was looking at they had an assistantship for me but I was gonna be working with micro foam and newspapers. I was just like I wanted to be doing something in my field. The more I got involved with my assistantship but also with other internships, pretty practical projects throughout my grad classes, the more I thought this is a key part of graduate education. Whenever I could give advice to anyone, if anyone asked me for advice I’d say, — you have to find ways to look at practical experience, get it wherever you can.

Practicing for our classes is great but if you can squeeze in an internship you can volunteer somewhere or whatever you can do cause that gets you experience working with people on different kinds of projects. Shows you how different places operate. I ended up staying with my graduate assistantship the whole three years and I’m very grateful that I did cause I got increasing responsibilities over those years. I think the same thing plays out when I think about my friends and where they worked.

One of my best friends worked in the grad school because she couldn’t find the historic preservation assistantship and that affected her big time. She worked pretty hard to find other opportunities but the rest of us who were getting to work in our field, it was a big enrichment I think for us…to be able to say we did that historic house nomination or we did this collection or we digitalized this set of stuff and created this webpage or whatever it was. Very helpful for the portfolio and for our resumes and just in general. Most of my graduate school experiences probably come from my grad assistantship as well as other practical experiences I got while I was there.

MR: what are your thoughts on the public history program within a larger history program? You talked about it a little bit. You had Dr. (Unintelligible 25:46) for a seminar. What are your thoughts on the program allowing you to take other history classes and how does that kind of work with your career a little bit?

LS: I wanted the mix that I got to take. I really appreciated the traditional history seminars that we all had to take. I think it’s funny but I think back in one of the seminars I took the late eighteen hundreds through modern day, it was mostly public history students in there. I really loved our conversation. I think we all just kind of knew each other and we gelled and we wanted to talk about similar things. Then I had another history seminar that was more like late seventeen hundreds to mid eighteen hundreds. That ended up being with mostly traditional history students and a few public history students, they mainly wanted to talk about theory and a few (Unintelligible 26:43) and things that would just drove us crazy.

It was kind of an interesting mix of what the two different groups wanted — how they approached discussions. There was no like animosity between the two groups that I’ve ever experienced. I think they integrated them more from what I’d heard in the year since the…we were a pretty separate bunch…history students from public history students back in two-thousand and one and two-thousand and four. That’s the case. I supposed I liked being in the same department with them…I don’t know.

[Laughter]

It was a wider…there was a wider variety of professors in any (Unintelligible 27:23)…I appreciated that.

MR: Good answer or just a good perspective. While you were at USC for public history…can you give us a breakdown of the gender or racial makeup of your cohort? Was there anything that stand out that in terms of being more one side or another in terms of people that you knew in your cohort or time in the department?

LS: We had a pretty big incoming group. We even had twelve or sixteen…I really can’t remember and it was almost the majority girls. Maybe half of us came right out of college and the other half had…most of the others had maybe a year or something in between but we were all pretty young. Then there was one kid who was sixteen and a prodigy and that was just interesting. After he graduated from the public history program, he went on to law school and…but you would never know it. We didn’t all know it when we first started and then we found out later. He was sixteen and we were all like, — what?

Yep. That was our group. We had that class together that was team-taught with Connie and Bob. Half of us would be in and out of the…this little informal public history room we had. It was on the first floor, Gambrell Hall, next to Connie Schulz’s old office. For whatever reason, it wasn’t used by professors. They used it for public history resources for class resources. You can go in there and do last minute reading if you haven’t finished at all. For the hour before that class, every week people would be in there sharing books and trying to finish out their reading. It was actually kind of fun.

That’s what I remember about my classmates.

MR: Awesome. I’ve never heard of this sixteen-year-old prodigy that went to law school. That’s very amazing.

LS: His name was Nick but I don’t remember his last name.

MR: That is really cool. Do you still stay in touch with any of your professors? Or people like in Gambrell?

LS: I get emails from Connie on occasion like group emails. That’s about it as far as professors. Mostly, it’s just classmates on social media.

MR: Fair enough. What is your vision for the future of the public history program? What would you like for it to keep doing or what do you think maybe that better practices to implement? What do you want to say to that?

LS: I don’t know if I have much to say. I know over the years it has gone away from our ties. That’s a little bit kind of like hmm cause I think archives…archival students benefit from being in a public history program but you know it is what it is. Resources are limited. I don’t know. I think public history programs in general I think need to be careful about how many people they bring on board because I see what happens when students return to find jobs out of public history programs.

It’s hard out there but I suppose all grad…I think all grad programs in the Humanities deal with this. This tug…we need more students to survive but we really need those students to get good jobs too. Just I think that’s an ethical consideration. I really can’t speak to how USC is doing in that regard but that’s kind of what I think in general about grad history programs.

MR: Thanks for your point of view on that. That’s definitely something to think about. Real point of thought. This may sound kind of…hokey but are the skills you learned in the public history program applicable to what you do today? You told us what you’re doing…Senator Hagel but if you could kind of just elaborate if you think it does.

LS: Oh yeah.

MR: Definitely.

LS: I learned a lot of archival principles pretty solidly. Those definitely come into play that I think that goes about saying but the stuff I picked up from the England field school and from other classes here and there in terms of objects has really helped me as well. I think there’s a decent amount of crossover in the archival and museum world. Then, just the history that I got in the seminars…very valuable. Archivists, I think need to be grounded in history. It depends…it’s gonna depend on the area you’re working in.

My work in archives is mostly since World War II and thankfully that’s mostly what I studied in grad school because I’m learning stuff everyday and it’s awfully helpful for me not to be learning out of the blue. I have historical context I can put to most of the documents that I come across and that’s very helpful. I think critical thinking and writing skills…man, those always come in handy. I definitely I know that I worked on developing those in grad school. At the time…especially, at the time I felt…I don’t keep up in discussions as well as other people…I don’t do this as well or whatever but I know that those things helped me in my career for sure.

MR: Thank you. Is there anything you would like to say that public historians who find themselves considering careers outside of the field…it sounds like a little weird question but do you have any advice for them cause I guess you gave us a breakdown on how challenging the humanities are in general. Do you have any kind of words of wisdom or kind of thoughts on that?

LS: I don’t know if I have thoughts about public historians going outside the field. I guess related I would say it’s awfully helpful for people to cross train a little bit to not be so narrow and not be able to work with a wide variety…a wide variety of cultural heritage contexts because there’s a lot of things that are transferable between different cultural heritage fields…I’d say.

MR: Awesome. Is there anything that I did not ask you that you think is important to know.

LS: I can’t think of anything.

MR: Fair enough. What did…what motivated you to volunteer to be interviewed? I’m curious about that actually.

LS: Well, I’m thankful for the public history program in general. Honestly, Bob Weyeneth done a decent job of kind of keeping in touch with people over there. There’s a list and Connie too. It just means something to me I think a little bit more than the library programs just because I…since I graduated, my classmates and I…some of this is cause I stuck around in Columbia for a while but we went to each other weddings and we were just around for life for many years. That just connects me more into the public history program.

I do care what happens even if I didn’t precisely know what’s going on.

MR: That’s a fair assessment. Thank you. Well, I just want to thank you for volunteering to interview and I appreciate the time you took to speak with me and give us your thoughts and I know it’s not easy cause I think you’re actually working right now…correct?

LS: Yeah.

MR: All right. I appreciate it. It’s funny that your…memory of England was on Halloween or just coming back to that party you were talking about…today’s is Halloween actually. That’s kind of funny for the rest of us.

LS: Yeah. I know. It’s pretty impossible to not think about those two things honestly. They’re pretty x in my mind…even fourteen years later. Yeah, it was a pleasure talking to you. You know good luck going forward with everything you’re working on.

MR: All right. Well, thank you. This is Maurice Robinson speaking with Lori Schwartz. Thirty-first of October two thousand and six for the USC Public History Oral Project.

LS: Okay. Thank you.