Rose Thomas

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Interviewee: Rose Thomas
Interviewer: Justin Curry Davis
Date: September 22, 2016
Accession #: PHP 030
Length of Recording: 61:24
Sound Recording
Summary

Rose Thomas is a 1963 graduate of the University of South Carolina with a BA in History. Prior to returning for graduate school, she worked as a teacher in Richland and Cherokee Counties. Thomas graduated from UofSC’s Public History Program in 1999, in the archival studies track. Concurrently with her MA, she completed a MLIS at UofSC’s School of Library of Information Science. After completing her graduate work, she began to work at the South Caroliniana as a part-time processing archivist.  She has also worked part-time in the conservation labs at the South Carolina State Archive and at UofSC’s off-site library facility (the Annex). Interview includes discussion of Thomas’s decision to come back to graduate school while raising a family, the experience of adjusting to new technologies that had not been a part of her earlier undergraduate experience, and her positive work and assistantship experiences. Thomas also discussed the joy she finds in her work as an archivist both in her past conservation experiences and in her position at the South Caroliniana Library.

 

Keywords

Archival Science | Cherokee County (SC) | High School Teachers | Library and Information Science | Nontraditional Students | Richland County (SC) | South Carolina State Archives | South Caroliniana Library

 

Transcript

Justin Davis:  We should be live here. So, thank you for being here.

Rose Thomas:  It’s my pleasure to. Whatever you just ask. I have no idea what you want to ask.  I will answer as best I can.

JD:  So you are Rose Thomas.

RT:  Yes.

JD:  Let me just start with the basic info. When were you in the Public History Program here at USC?

RT:  I began in 1994. And I finished in 1999. I did the dual program with Public History and Library and Information Science. I did the two at the same time. I probably should have been done a little bit earlier, but I was taking care of a mentally handicapped child plus a young son.  Activities with him delayed me in getting out. I always enjoyed going to school. In fact, I would go again if I thought I could pick something that would hold my interest long enough to go through it. I just like being a student.

JD:  Really. You did your undergraduate here as well?

RT:   I did. I did. In fact, I came back. I majored in history, and I came back with the Public History program in 1994. I’d been out, golly thirty something years. The campus had changed and not changed. There were a lot more people, and technology had come along.  I’m still not versed in some of it, but I get along alright.

JD:  What did you do before you came back to school?

RT:  I had taught school. My (inaudible at 2:07) graduated. Then for seven years I taught in Gaffney in Cherokee county. I taught in Dreher here High School here in town. Then my husband and I began our family. We were trying to have a family, so I was just a stay at home mother and wife. Then I did some part time work in the kindergarten with my children were there. Then I quit that job, started to school and added onto my house all at the same time. (Laughs) My husband had died that time. He wouldn’t have stopped me from doing those things.  It was just me. I had a table that belonged to my mother-in-law that fit into my kitchen.  That table had a tendency to grow. So, I just went out the back door out where there was a breakfast room that holds that table. I was doing everything at the same time. I really haven’t had a full-time job since I taught school, which was many years ago now. I work in the archives part-time, and I did some part-time work.

JD:  Here?

RT:  Um-hum. In fact, I was in graduate school at the time when they were getting ready to move out to the new facility out on Parklane [Road]. I was involved in stabilizing the collection to go:  shrink-wrapping, making boxes, repairing.

JD:  So, you worked out on Senate Street?

RT:  Um-hum. When my internship was up, then they called me later. Somebody had left the lab, and they asked me to go back. I went back to work part-time.

JD:  On Parklane Road?

RT:  Um-hum. In the conservation lab. Then that job played out. I did some contract work here, and it ended. I did some work out at the conservation lab for the university out there. That played out. Then I wasn’t doing anything. Then I got a call from here that they needed somebody [the South Caroliniana Library]. I think that was in 2000. So I came back.  I came here part-time since then, processing collections.

JD: So you’re mostly off-site now with the collection being gone?

RT:  You know, I’m over at Senate Street, and I’m back over there.

JD:  Back over there. (Laughs)

RT:  I’m not on the same side [of the street]. That building, part of it, was built, and then they doubled the size of it. I really, tell you the truth, I’m not sure which side I’m in. I’m on the parking lot side. I don’t know if that’s the first part they built or the other part. But I think I’m in the room now where they used to keep state records. There are no windows, and that was hard to get used to because here [at South Caroliniana]—all these widows out onto campus, and seeing students, and people coming in to research. I don’t get that now. It’s the same work that I enjoy and that’s fine.

JD:  Right.

RT:  That’s it. I’m been here for a long time now. I’ve filled my head full of trivia. But it’s fun, reading people’s papers. I don’t know which I like better, the more current papers, or the ones from a long time ago. It’s equal, I think. There’s lots of information in both.

JD:  Um-hum. Do you find interesting things?

RT:  Oh yeah, oh yeah, very much so. I’m never board.

JD:  How much time to you spend working a week now?

RT:  I work sixteen and a half hours, I guess. It’s three days. Five and a half hours today. Yeah, sixteen and a half hours a week. So I work eleven to five Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

JD:  So when you’re out over there, the papers that you get over there, are they mostly recent things? Or is it a mix?

RT:  Right now I’m going through, really, a mixed collection. Because when they were getting ready to move all of the holdings out of here, this room behind the manuscript room across the hall, and things would just stack in there. [Things were] put there and they had not been . . . Put there by somebody. Some of them, I mean, they knew they were in there, but nothing had been done with them.  Some of them had been accessioned, but they hadn’t been described.  Or they had been described, but they were not in good folders and they or they had been put in good folders but they were not at the permanent address.

I’m going through all of those. I’m getting all kinds of things.  Some of them I’m having to figure out if there might be more to the collection.  There are twelve cartons of them. So I’m going through all twelve cartons making detailed notes. When I get through the twelve, then I’ll know if what I’ve gone through is it.  I mean, I’ll know if there’s not something in box two and some more in box ten. I’m trying to get a handle on that. But also in the meantime, I’m working on another collection that I think it’s about three cartons. That includes some volumes, so it’s not as many papers. I always like to have something waiting for me if I get tired of what I’m working on. My mind goes blank, then I can start on something else just as a teaser or a refresher or something. It’s like reading the comic strips after you’ve been reading a heavy history book.  That kind of thing.

JD:  So it helps you keep your interest in what you’re doing too.

RT:  Take a little break and go back to it. There’s something I’ve worked on literally for years, but I’ve done other things within those years. It hadn’t taken straight, every day working on something, taking that long.  Some of the collections are really quite large. I had to go through, and I’m one of those people who has to read everything I see in there to make sure that I know what’s going on. There’s some weeding that goes on; there are some things that are extraneous materials that don’t have anything to do with the collection. Sometimes there’re things in there that belong to published materials, so they get moved to them. So, you have to see where things go. It takes a while, and then you have to write it up.

JD:  Very thorough.

RT:  Yes.

JD:  So how did you end up moving back to Columbia? How did you end up deciding to come back to school and start this specific program, Public History?

RT:  Well, as I said.

JD:  Or Applied History.

RT:  Right. I had majored in history. I had always liked it. I guess at that time I had heard about the program.  Actually, I had thought about Library School, and was looking into that. The when I saw there was a dual program with the history, at that time it was Applied History rather than public, but it’s the same thing, just changed the name. I said, now that looks like very interesting.  I looked at it a little bit more and then in the Public History they had a museum track, preservation track, and archives. I decided that I liked the archives, that that would suit me better.  I applied, studied, took the Graduate Record again, and began school.

I think sometimes that they like mature students. I’m not sure how mature I was in being a student.  I know I was mature in age. (Laughs) Anyway, I applied and was interviewed. They thought I would fit their program, so I started in, I guess, my son’s beginning seventh grade.  I came back [to school]. As I said earlier, I like school. I think being a student on a college campus is really a nice thing to do. I find that, this sounds silly, but I find it a safe environment in that you know what you’ve got to do with assignments or writing papers or meeting class, and all of that. It’s just some structure. I like that. I’d much rather be a student than a classroom teacher.  I’m happy where I am.  It was a good move, and it gave me some outside interests of my besides just focusing on my children. It was good for me and good for them also.

I have a son who is in his Ph.D. program here at the University, although he lives in Virginia.  He was an undergraduate graduate from here. He apparently likes his school too.

JD:  Right. Follows after you.

RT:  He was living in Germany at the time he started his Ph.D. program. I asked him why in the world did he start it while he was in Germany. [Why not] wait until he got Stateside? And he said, well, he was running out of time on his GRE and he didn’t want to take that again. I guess that’s a good reason. It turned out fine. He’s getting to the end now. He’s in the paper writing part of it. I just like school. I like school.

JD:  Was it difficult to have a seven-year-old when you started back to graduate school?

RT:  Now, he was in the seventh grade. But yeah, it was totally different. He was, (aside) I think he was in the seventh grade, is that right?  He may have been in the eighth grade.

JD:  Eleven, twelve; somewhere in there?

RT:  Yeah.  He may have been; I think he was beginning the seventh grade.  I started the year before, I guess.  He wanted to go to the next school.  He went from a private school to another private school.  I quote “held him back” because I couldn’t see him going to a brand new school that was not close to home.  And me starting college again and all of this.  He stayed at his first school for one more year, and entered the other one in the seventh grade.  That was my second year of school, so that worked out.  So he was in the sixth grade, actually, eleven [years old] when I began.  I was a little difficult coming because computer had started suddenly, I mean, they had been around.  But they weren’t when I was in graduate school.  They just hit, and we were using them a lot more.  I had to get to speed on that.  I’m not sure how up-to-speed I got.  (Laughs) I managed.

JD:  You managed.

RT:  I like that bag. It was a little hard. But not impossible to come back to school.  I knew what is was to go to school. It wasn’t like having through high school and no college and then suddenly when you’re middle aged deciding to go to college. I wasn’t that big a shock. And of course, professors and other students, who could have been my children. It was a nice . . . nobody resented the old person in the class kind of thing.

JD:  While you were here, what classes were influential?

RT:  I remember taking a statistics course, one of the basic courses in Library School. I found that interesting.  Although I’m not really good in math, I turned out to be good in that class for some strange reason.

JD:  Really?

RT:  Yeah. And then in the history, I took a survey course in colonial history, well American history, I’m sorry, up to the American Revolution, which I found very interesting.  I guess my absolute favorite class was Everyday Colonial Life. One of the first assignments we had we to take our birthday and year (month, day and year) and go back three-hundred years and see what was in the newspaper: what happened, what was going on that day. That was a lot of fun. Then reading the passenger lists, and seeing who you could figure out that made that trip just from the names and the family groups.  Well, you can make up a story, but there’s a lot you can learn from just a list of passengers.  That was most interesting.

Then I took a preservation course and it lasted two weeks—a field school. [We] went down to Charleston and we stayed in one of the College of Charleston’s dormitories, houses. We got a lot of back-behind-the-scenes of historic homes in places.  Various people came in and talked to the class. In fact, I was thinking about that class—and I really enjoyed that.  I was thinking today in the newspaper, they had an article about the Amy’s [Ashley’s] Sack that belonged to a slave. Her mother gave it to her. Her Mother’s name was Rose, and she gave it to her daughter who was being sold at age nine. It’s up at the new African American Museum in Washington.

JD:  Yes.

RT:  And they were quoting Charles Duell, who is a foundation head at Middleton Place. I said, I know that man. I mean, he’s one of the fellows who spoke to our class and showed us around Middleton Plantation in the field school. I enjoyed that class, but actually they all had their good points. There were things about some of them that I didn’t care that much [for], but I figured in a few weeks they’ll be over with and I’d be gone.

JD:  Right.

RT: (Laughs)Those I really enjoyed.

JD:  It’s your colonial history that really was your big interest here?

RT:  Yeah.

JD:  Is that how you got into your thesis on eighteenth century child rearing?

RT:  Well, there was a class, I guess it was a survey class. We had to do some papers and then present it to the class. The class could critique what you had done. For some reason, I just chose, out of the list topics that the professor had, I chose child rearing in the eighteenth century. I wrote whatever the length was supposed to be on that. I decided that if I’d gone that far, and had done some looking up research, and gotten some resources, I could just continue with that.

I wrote on eighteenth century child rearing. I took all thirteen colonies and looked at their education, what they used to teach children in the different sections. There were some of them remarkably the same, as you might think. The discipline that went into the child rearing and the interaction that children had with others in various sections of the colonies. I just took an overview of all thirteen. It’s all been done with different sections, but I just took all of them and went with it.  Before I finished my paper, it was green eggs and ham. I hated that thing.

JD:  Really?

RT: (Laughs) Yeah, but I kept going, and I got it finished. I don’t think I’ve looked at it since I got my published copy. (Laughs) But I learned a lot. It was surprising how close they were in some things, and how different they were. Of course, in the New England states, colonies, they lived closer together than down in the Southern [ones] where they had tutors come in. There was (inaudible at 19:38) and hunting and fishing and all of that as part of it.  Even the games that the children played, I learned a lot out of it even though I, as I say, I got to a point where I really didn’t like it.  But it was too late to be switching, changing horses, so I finished it.

JD:  Did you travel at all to archives, or were you able to get it here?

RT:  I was able to get it here. I was able to get it online or to get it in the things that were here.  Microfilm of John Tillotson’s sermons: he was an Episcopal minister in England, and he was very well read in the colonies. He preached several sermons on how you were supposed to rear your children, discipline your children. I got a lot out of that. There were lots of rare books here, [we] had lots of books that were helpful in seeing what they read, what did they publish for children.

JD:  That was one of my questions, whether or not you carried on with your project or not. So you say no, but you still can talk at length about what you researched.

RT:  Well, I don’t remember all my resources now. But I was able to get it here. I didn’t travel, no, to answer that. I didn’t go anywhere. There’s so much that’s been published that actually, I could look at things that had been published to see what their resources were and then go look at those resources and see myself what they were. I wasn’t like people who come here from Germany to look at Francis Liber’s papers or they come from Hawaii to look at some plantations. There are people who do lots of extensive travel. Just within the states to come and get what’s here. This library [South Caroliniana] has a lot to pull on, of course. So it worked out for me.  I’m not sure I could have travelled.  I would have made arrangements if I had had to.  It worked out for me not to have to.

JD:  So while you were here, would you say you had any particular professor or professors who were influential on your career?

RT:  Jessica Kross is one.

JD:  Kross?

RT:  Kross, K-R-O-S-S. And Connie Schulz. Actually, Bob Weyeneth. He and Connie team taught some of the history courses and the basic Public History courses. I always enjoyed when he, his segment.  I can’t call anybody right now. Well, there . . . I guess those three were the ones who had the most influence. Although all the other classes that I had, I learned from them. But I had more interaction with those I suppose than the others. More with Connie than actually with Bob.  I wrote some grants and did some work for the National Park Service, and Connie was helpful in that. Jessica [Kross] was the one that taught that Everyday Colonial Life that I really liked.  She was the primary reader on my paper.  So, of course I like her.  (Laughs)

JD:  She passed you.

RT:  Yeah.  At that time, when I graduated, you had to take a written exam.

JD:  Comprehensive?

RT:  Um-hum.  And then a thesis, whereas now I think it’s different now.  You have to present, I guess a paper.  You have a portfolio.

JD:  The portfolio stands in lieu of the old comprehensive exam.

RT:  I didn’t have to do that.  I did the written [exam] and the paper, which was probably, I don’t know . . . I don’t know which would be better.  Whatever criteria was then, I would have met it, I suppose.  But thinking about it, I’m glad I took the written and the paper.

JD:  Oh, really?

RT:  Yeah.  (Laughs)

JD:  Did you find the written exam to be a good examination as far as being a summary of what you learned?

RT:  It was.  But I’ll tell you, I think if I’d had the—it was two days’ worth—if I’d had the second day the first day, I’m not sure if I would have come back.

JD:  Really?

RT:  I mean, it was hard and it was very tiring.  And it was long.  Both days, because you had all the different areas that you had to know about.  Then I got through it and then I was relieved.  And I say I wouldn’t come back, but I would have come back.  It’s just like people who have two children and some parents will say if we’d had the second one first we’d have no more because of the personality of the child and having to keep him behind and all that kind of thing.  It was a good two days’ chore.  I’ll put it that way.  [It was] long, and trying to pull everything out of your head and write it down.

JD:  How did you study for that?

RT: I think I had a list of sources to be aware of.  I know with the one, I never will forget this question. If you were working, looking to get a job or working at the South Caroliniana Library, and the director wanted you to do some project, what sources would you go to pull from to get your project, to get your sources together. I had to think about all these archival books that we had looked at, studied, reviewed, to pull together and make a plan, and write the plan as though it were being presented to the director of the library. That was one question. There was another one. Something about names of slaves coming over. I had read a really interesting article that sometimes people thought that the slave owner or the slave dealer, whatever, just gave the slaves their names. You’d see somebody named Tuesday or Saturday, the days of the week.  They found out later that the Africans named, they used those names; those were common names in Africa.

JD:  Days of the week?

RT:  Days of the week. So I was expounding on that, and I forget what else. It’s been so long ago; I don’t have to remember that.

JD:  You don’t.  It’s not a test.

RT: (Laughs) Once you write it down, it’s out of the head.

JD:  You passed; that’s all that matters. When you were here did you do an internship and/or external assistantship?

RT:  I did an internship here at the Caroliniana, and I worked for a professor in the Library School, Pat Feehan. I think she has just retired.

JD:  I think so.

RT:  Then I did an internship out at the archives.

JD:  Over on Senate Street?

RT:  Yeah. So those three. Where I got the job as a GA for Pat, they had mentioned in one of the classes early on that, you know, if you work for a professor, your tuition got cut in half, plus you got paid. So I thought, well, that might be something I could do that would work around my children. They were both in school.  I enquired, I mean, I looked. It had a list of all these skills, computer this and computer that.  I thought I can’t do that. So finally I decided I had a pleasant telephone voice. That was a silly thing to say, except that Pat Feehan was looking for somebody who could talk to book publishers all over the United States and to talk to the off-site students who were in Maine, Georgia, and West Virginia. She called me on the phone when she saw that had been turned in over at the office in Davis College [building on University of South Carolina campus]. She called, and we talked on the phone and then she offered me a job.  She decided that, yes I did have a pleasant telephone voice. (Laughs)

JD:  Did you write that down, your application form?

RT:  Yeah, that’s what I put on there for my skill.

JD:  Your telephone voice?

RT:  So I had a pleasant telephone voice. I worked for her up until I went on to the archives. My advisor said that if I planned to work in archives, anything to do with archives, I needed to get over there. They had an opening, so I applied over there and went to work over there.  It was funny. How you speak on the telephone might land you a job. We used to have a lot of laughs over that.

JD:  Was that a good experience working for Pat Feehan?

RT:  It was; it was.  I would call or answer the phone. Somebody would call. Often I would call to check on students, whatever Pat would ask me to do. Of course, she would follow up.  Just calling and asking various things. Invariably, when you call somebody in Maine, they wanted to know what the weather was down here. Then they’d cry when I told them.

In fact, I took a trip with her. It was during spring break. We went up to check on some of her independent study people there. They were apologizing all over the place because there was snow still on the ground. The roads were clear for the most part. But here, we left, azaleas blooming, dogwoods blooming. It was already warm.

JD:  Right.

RT:  They were just, I thought I never get to see this; this is fine.  But I did stay too long somewhere.  Pat was doing a workshop in Augusta, Maine.  I took the car and drove into town to go to their State Museum.  And I stayed at the fair too long, because when I came out it was snowing.  The roads were covered.  Driving this vehicle that was not my own, and I did not know where I was.  I turned my directions around upside down to reverse my order.  The worst thing is getting on one of those rotaries, or whatever they are, the roundabouts.

JD:  Roundabouts.

RT:  But I didn’t keep going around and around. I got off of it where I was supposed to get off.  I got back to the college and handed her the keys and said, “that’s it, I’m not driving anymore.” I don’t like driving in the snow and being in an unknown place.  That wasn’t fun, but the State Museum was great. I enjoyed that very much.

JD:  How long did you work for her? Was it just . . .

RT:  I must have worked for her for four years, maybe.

JD:  That’s a long time. Was that your Grad Assistantship?

RT:  Um-hum. We did workshops. I think there were two a semester. She would do a workshop on Saturday so that distance ed. students could come in. I would come in and fix the coffee.

JD:  Okay.  You’re useful.

RT:  I had a very important job. Yeah. I would come up for that and handouts, and whatever she needed.

JD:  How long did you work over at Senate Street at the State Archives?

RT:  I worked there . . . I guess I worked there a year. It must have been right ats two years and then they moved. My internship, I think it finished up while I was here. But I hadn’t finished school. Maybe I worked a year there. And then they called me back and I went back and just worked as temporary, part-time help with them. I was actually finishing up my paper.

JD:  You were still a student when you went to State Park?

RT:  Yeah, but I wasn’t working as a grad student. I was part-time temporary help. I was there when I actually finished up my paper. I’m pretty sure that’s the way it happened.

JD:  And you were working in the conservation lab there at the new archive?

RT:  Yeah, at State Park.

JD:  Did you have any special training in that here?

RT:  I took a class in that here. And when I went as a GA, not the GA, an intern at Senate Street, I worked in the lab there. So one person, there were two people who were working actually hands on stuff in the lab. I got more from them in book repair and washing papers, repairing papers, making boxes, face boxes, and then the bottom and the top—two-piece box. Are you familiar with face boxes, when I say face box?

JD:  No.

RT: It’s two pieces that they’re glued together that you put the book in and then you fold up the ends.  Then you fold over.  Then you have a box.

JD:  To keep it?

RT:  Yeah.  It’s a two-piece thing rather than a bottom that you put the book in.  Then the clamshell.

JD:  Keeps it together.

RT:  Yeah.  Clamshell boxes. At Senate, when I worked at the conservation lab. At State Park, when I worked at the University’s lab, I did some clamshell boxes there.

JD:  That’s the one by the library annex, right?  It’s separate from the State Archive.

RT:  Yeah.

JD:  I’m not sure that the Parklane Road facility has a conservation lab.

RT:  They closed their lab. Yeah, a nice lab. Lots of equipment. It’s my understanding it’s closed. When I worked there. I don’t remember the days of the week that I work now. I called one of the days laundry day. It’s when I was washing papers and putting them on racks to dry.  Taking them off and putting them between the waters and changing them out dozens of times.  It was so nice to dip them in and see them get, a lot of them would literally get clean. You would have dirty water because dirt was coming off the papers. Even though you cleaned them, there was still dirt there.  The blue paper that has a lot of civil war documents. They just turned the prettiest blue when they got cleaned.

JD:  Really? 

RT:  Yeah. I enjoyed my work there, but I think I may . . . well, I miss doing that kind of thing, but I really enjoy processing.

JD:  So are you able in your current work to do any conservation?

RT:  Not now. When I first came here, that was one of my jobs. I would go use the lab over in Thomas Cooper.  I made some face boxes there. I guess I just made some boxes. I’m trying to think, yeah, just face boxes. It’s easier for them to send them out to conservation lab at State Park.  The girl, or the girls, out there. I don’t know who works there now. I guess it’s, what’s her name? Anyway, I’m sure she has students who help her out there.

When I was working out there they had two full time conservationists and then some students would come in and out to help them. Then I was part-time, temporary help. They have their hands full. I know there’s a stack of boxes over at Senate Street now. A graduate student is working on a large collection. They’re separating to go get some fixing. A lot of things I come across that don’t really need to go out there. They could just go in a mylar sleeve. You can read it without taking out, or handling the piece of paper. At some point they’ll be fixed, I guess. I miss that. I like to sew. I guess one of the things I did out at the lab was [to] take apart one of William Gilmore Sims scrapbooks and put it back together. Preserve it, sew it back tougher. He would past on top of other things. He would put something on top of the paper and keep staking, pasting on top. 

JD:  Oh really? 

RT:  So we very gingerly. We took pictures, and then removed a layer. When we finished with everything, and it all got preserved, conserved. Then we put it back together. Then you could pick up, we hinged them so you could read them. We had papers to know what went on top of what.  It was a long process. But it turned out very well. I enjoyed sewing one of the volumes back together. That was a neat job.

JD:  Was the Library School, were most people on the archiving track also in the Library School when you were here?

RT:  Um, yes.

JD:  Was that well integrated with the History Department overall?

RT:  Um-hum. And a lot of people who were in the History Department who were getting a Ph.D., they used the Public History as one of their tracks. So they didn’t really, they weren’t involved with the Library School. Or were they? No, they were the Public History part. But getting the library, being with the Library School and the Public History, I guess gave you a dual chance of getting a job. Of course, here, it’s a library. But having a degree or background with the Public History is also most helpful. Or anything with history. I pretty sure the current director got the dual in library science and English. They had that also. I don’t know if that program is still viable now.

JD:  I’m not sure.

RT:  What track are you on? I know that I’m being interviewed, but you are in Pubic History.  Are you in Library School also?

JD:  Well, I went through Library School a couple of years ago now. I’m doing it as the second part. There’s no longer an archival track.

RT:  Yeah.  I knew that because it’s gotten where people didn’t want to . . . I guess interest, lack of interest.

JD:  Yeah, some of it is probably changes. The job market is different. My track, though, is the officially museums and material culture. They’re still the preservation track as well.

RT:  Right.

JD:  Did you find that the Public History program, the M.A. students and then those Ph.D. doing a field in Public History, did you find that that was well integrated with the rest of the graduate department, the students who were only doing Ph.D.’s?

RT:  I think so. I think so. I have a number of friends who were in the Ph.D. program that I happened to end up having classes with. In the Public History, so far as I know, it seems to be well meshed. I know there’s a young lady [Melissa DeVelvis] who was in straight history who’s working on her Ph.D. who worked this summer, in fact, she’s working a few hours this semester over at Senate Street processing papers. I think it works well. They could tell you better since they were actually the Ph.D. students into the other part whereas all I know is the part I was in.

JD:  Right. 

RT:  But I had a number of classes with Ph.D. students. A survey course of the American Revolution, readings taught by, I mean, that was the History Department. It could spill over. I found it satisfactory. I didn’t see that there was any, “what are you doing in here?” kind of things with either side. I would assume that it works well.

JD:  In your classes, like colonial, those would have been open to the entire school?

RT:  Um-hum. Yeah. I guess the basic courses, well I don’t know how they determined who took them.  But I guess it’s like anything, you have a certain core courses you have to take.  I’m trying to think.

JD:  Have you kept up with any of the people you were in school with?

RT:  Um-hum. Let’s see, in-periodically. Some of them would then come back to campus.  Some I keep up with what’s on the listserv. I’ve kept up with some them, or they’ve kept up with me.  Whichever, a mutual thing. I don’t see a lot of them, although often we know sort of know what’s going on. I think it’s a fairly close-knit community.

JD:  How big was the department at the time?

RT:  I’m trying to think.  I’m not real sure. Seems like some of the classes would have twenty-five people in it.  I don’t know what the cut-off number. I don’t know, some of the history courses I took, I think one course had eight, nine of us. And there were two girls. That must have been out of the History Department rather than the Public History. I’m not sure about that.  It was a goodly number. But that course with the few number was a higher up course.  It was getting up in on the numbers, and sometimes those get smaller with class size with the course number.  I don’t know. I know that class we met over at Thomas Cooper one night for whatever reason, well it was a night class.

I was parked over on Senate Street and two of the fellas in there walked me over to my car, and then they went on to wherever they were going. I found that to be nice. I’ve forgotten their names, I’m sorry to say. As I say, they were kind to a doddering old lady. I really wasn’t doddering, but I really was one of the older students in there. Back to my original thought about liking to be in school. Age didn’t make any difference. It was fun to hear them discuss their social life and their research problems and that kind of thing. It was just a good experience. I’d do it again. I told you that.

JD:  You did.

RT:  I’d find another course.

JD:  There were two women in just that class, not the whole department?

RT:  What now? All students, no. That class was small. There were others that were twenty-five thirty.

JD:  But you said there were just one or two women.

RT:  Oh, it was just that small class.  Yeah.  There were more in the other classes.

JD:  What was the balance at the time, approximately?

RT:  There were more females than males.

JD:  Really?  I think that is probably still true.

RT:  I think on the whole campus there were more female than male. Even just the Library School classes, it was that way. It was more female than male.

JD:  Was the department fairly diverse in other ways?

RT:  Yes. There were, well, I can’t call names now. I go blank on them. Names probably wouldn’t mean anything anyway. But it was diverse, yeah. It was a very congenial group. Not that it wouldn’t have been. Everybody enjoyed coming to class, apparently. Everybody always showed up. They didn’t overuse their cuts, if that’s even called that now, missing class.

JD:  Were most of your classes the long seminars? The two and a half hour seminars?

RT:  Yes. Not all, but most. I don’t know if I like that or not. I guess in some ways it’s good. I was in undergraduate school before I finished the change, but I think they changed some of them.  We met Monday, Wednesday, Friday with one set of courses, and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday with the other courses. I think when I got out of undergraduate school, they started having Tuesday, Thursday classes that were longer. I think when I started in summer school, there were two summer schools.  No, there was one summer school session.  There weren’t two. You could take ten hours if you were taking a lab course, a science course that had a lab.  You could get up to ten hours in one summer. Of course, now you can get more with two sessions of summer school. All of that changed. As I said, that was back in the Dark Ages. There have been lots of changes with it. Yeah. Most of the classes were, however, long, two and a half hours.

JD:  So thinking about your experience as a student and then having been out using the skills that you [gained].  What would you say that your vision for the program is in 2016 and moving forward?

RT:  Well, I’m sorry to see that there isn’t the archival track now. Although I can see why that is not there. I think part of that is interest and job market. And the interest for somebody to “teach it.”  I would like to see if that could come back somehow or another. Although the museum track is great, and so is preservation.  I was very interested in preservation, excuse me, focused on that.  But I decided that the other just hit a note with me.  I would like to see that all three could be there and viable. When I was on the field trip, Dr. Weyeneth would say, “Are you getting anything out of this?”  I was the only archives track person then.  I said, “How do you think you could do all this if all the archives people weren’t keeping the papers for you?” (Laughs)  I mean, it can be managed in those two, but I would like to see the archives there. It would be nice, I don’t know, sometimes you can get too big and that takes something away. I guess I don’t know.

JD:  Student body size you mean?

RT:  Um-hum.  Um-hum.  I’ve always been, I think the Pubic History program here is good.  I guess the vision for it to continue to be a top-notch program.  If the growth comes, then it comes.  Otherwise if it stays the way it is, that would still be quality.

JD:  Are there some things that you wish had been offered or done a different way when you were a student?

RT:  I don’t think so. I think I got what I needed out of it. Now that’s not to say that other people may have viewed it a little bit differently. I hate to keep this age thing, but somebody may have a different goal. Actually, when I came back to school, a job was not one of my motivating reasons for coming. I came because I just wanted to come back to school, and I enjoyed being in that environment. I used to tell, they were taking about job hunting, I said “Ya’ll just go to all these places way off where there’re job offers and I’ll take care of the Columbia Market.” Because I wasn’t planning on moving anywhere. As it turned out, things just fell into my lap. Some of them ended up in Columbia anyway.

As I say, I was pleased with my classes, and it suited me what I did. The fact that I got a job here without even applying for a job. It’s always nice to get a phone call and say “We’ve got an opening, could you come and work for us?”  It always makes you feel nice. I was happy. I don’t know of anything that was missing in the program from me because it worked out for me. Now, others may have something else. I don’t know if I answered that question or not.

JD:  I think you did It served your career goals well. You felt that the education was of good quality here. Now, do you have anything else you’d like to tell me about your experience or how the degree that you got here has continued to influence your life after graduating? 

RT:  Well, I always have interesting stories to tell.  I’m afraid I’m a big story teller. I don’t use names.  But things that I’ve read. Of course, my head is full of trivia.  But I find it very rewarding to get to see somebody else’s life work. It doesn’t have to be, when I say life’s work, it doesn’t have to be working in the public, but just a house wife or a homemaker whose papers, letters written to family members, what she’s received, or what she has written.  To go through and see how her life was. Just get it in order, by that I mean get it in maybe chronological order or just in different sections. Just to see how people existed a long time ago or even recently, because we get papers in where people are still living. I just find that to be . . . I enjoy doing that.  I’m afraid I get caught up in it. I worry about these people at night and their children.  I mean, all this was in the past but I’m still worrying. I always tell them they give me dysfunctional families, so I worry too much. I find it really sad reading things when they are writing the letter. They don’t know what is coming. I already know.  

JD:  Really? 

RT:  Yeah. I just find that a sad thing. In fact, in my own household, I have a letter that’s not part of that collection. My mother had an older brother who died when he was very young, age twenty-one I guess. But I have a letter written to his older sister telling about the the birth of his baby. It’s just the sweetest thing and he is so excited about the birth of this little girl. But he didn’t know that in a month he’d be dead Just to read that letter, I see the happiness, but I know what’s under there.  I know what’s coming next. That’s happened in the same collections and I get wrapped up in them.  I don’t know what your question was now. I just like the work.  Reading people’s journals. I always accuse, well I don’t accuse, but I say “If you don’t get something or me to work on I’m going to bring trashy novels and bring them to work.” They say “You can’t do that.” I assure you that there are some journals, you don’t call them “trashy journals” but you read them like this. (Pretends to hold something away from face.) It’s embarrassing.  You just don’t know what you’re going to get into when you read dead people’s letters.

JD:  Perhaps they should have destroyed them.

RT:  I bore people all the time.  I say I worked the other day.  I was working on this and this and this.  Guess what I read, or what happened to these people. I work all the time. One week I was working on the Ku Klux Klan.  It’s letters this long.  But it’s the Black Mason organization. You run into varied things. That makes life interesting.  It’s never boring. I assure you it’s not boring to read.  I always say that the men write better love letters than their wives [who] write back to them or their girlfriends.

JD:  Really?

RT:  Yeah. Men can write love stories. I think women write romance stories; men write love stories. It’s the same thing in their letters. It’s really nice love letters. It’s just a fun job. I mean, ordinarily you wouldn’t know all of this. I’d say you get to delve into people’s personal lives and their business.  It’s not all personal.

JD:  What’s more interesting?

RT:  Well, you know, some of the politics things can be pretty interesting. But the personal is always so. I’m from Columbia, lived in South Carolina all of my life.  Most of my time here in Columbia, I know a lot of people. I get accused of knowing people. If you live in one place a long time, you’re bound to know lots of people. Know about them if you don’t know them personally. It’s sort of fun to get ahold of some of the papers of old families, and whatnot.  Anyway, it’s just a prime job. Anybody wants a job, just ask for one at the Caroliniana.  

JD:  Oh really? 

RT:  Yeah. 

JD:  How long do you plan to keep on working? 

RT:  Well, I don’t know. I don’t think there is an age requirement. I guess when they decide they don’t want me. I have to be rehired every year because I’m part-time, temporary. I don’t know, as long as I think I’m doing an okay job, or if they think so. As long as I can change gears in the car I guess I’ll continue. I don’t have any plans to stop. I may have to, I don’t know, my daughter is doing alright, but they’re some issues with her now. At some point I will have to be totally at home with her. Right now, she goes to adult care while I’m here. I know down the road things are going to change.  I just do it day by day. I enjoy being at home. I also being here.

JD:  Are you looking forward to the renovations here?

RT:  I probably won’t be here when they finally open up.

JD:  Don’t say that.

RT:  Well, you know, they say it’ll take five years but it’ll actually take like ten.  That five years is after they raise the money and get started. I may be able to come back and look in and see what they’ve done. As long as my health is good and they think I’m doing what they want done, then I’m fine working. As I say, I enjoy it. It’s not a chore. I think if you don’t like your job, then you need to move on. I like my job.

JD:  Well, keep it.  We’ve been going on about an hour here.

RT:  Mercy.

JD:  Which is a good time, I think, to look over things.  Any final things you want to say for the record here?

RT:  I don’t think so.  I’ve probably rambled enough.

JD:  I wouldn’t say you’ve rambled.

RT:  I appreciate you’re letting me do this.  When the word came down on the listserv, I said, “I’m here in town, and if I can help somebody” they’re wanting to do it in person, if possible.  So I answered back.  I said, “If you need me, I’ll do it.”  Here I am.  I’m glad I was able to help you out with your project.  I enjoyed meeting you.

JD:  Thank you.

RT:  It’s sort of fun going back over this.  I don’t dwell on it.  But it was nice pull back some memories of being in school, and the work.

JD:  It sounds like they are mostly good memories too.

RT:  Oh yeah. They were. Of course, the whole plus of this is that I got to meet you. 

JD:  Exactly. The same could be said for me. 

RT:  So there. (Laughs)

JD:  Are you ready for me to stop the recording? 

RT:  That’d be fine.

End of Interview