A Look Behind the Stacks: Laura Bell

In archives and libraries “the stacks” refers to the many archival collections, books, and resources held by the repository for students and researchers to use. Archivists, librarians, and others work hard to preserve and make these resources accessible and to create a welcoming environment for students and researchers. A Look Behind the Stacks is a series highlighting UB Special Collections & Archives staff, students, interns, and partners from other departments in the RLB Library and in UB who all help make our work possible. Follow our blog to meet us and to learn more about what we all do behind the stacks!

This month for our A Look Behind the Stacks series, meet Laura, Processing Archivist at the UB Special Collections & Archives!

Name: Laura Bell

Title/Role: As Processing Archivist in the Special Collections & Archives my main responsibilities involve creating access to archival resources through collection management and collection processing, as well as archival accessioning and the creation of online finding aids. I also develop physical and digital exhibits, coordinate social media outreach, work with students and volunteers on archives projects, and I’m a member of the library’s digital preservation task force.

Educational Background: I earned my Master of Library Science (MLS) degree with a Specialization in Archives and Records Management from Indiana University, Bloomington and my B.A. degree in English from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Previous Experience: I came to the UB Special Collections & Archives after graduating from Indiana University, Bloomington with my MLS. Before my current position, I worked and interned in several archives and libraries including the Indiana University Archives. At the UB Special Collections & Archives I enjoy contributing to multiple projects and ‘wearing many hats!’

Favorite Collection or Item in the Special Collections & Archives: One of the first collections I processed at the UB Special Collections & Archives was the Fred E. Weisgal Papers. The collection contains materials relating to a Baltimore lawyer’s life, music compositions, and work in Baltimore. Weisgal was involved in a number of notable legal cases in Baltimore during the 1960s. Working with the collection offered a unique introduction to Baltimore’s history.

Current Project: I’m currently working on a few different projects. I recently finished processing the Baltimore City Office of Civil Rights Records, a recent accession. It’s a small collection that contains interesting materials related to the city office’s programs and work in the late twentieth century. Another recent processing project was the Betty Garman Robinson Papers, a collection that documents the work of a local community organizer. You can read more about Robinson’s work in Baltimore in this blog post. I’m also working with colleagues in the Special Collections & Archives and in the RLB Library on a digital preservation initiative to manage and preserve our many digital materials. On a regular basis, I also coordinate blog posts and social media for the archives in order to share our work with interested researchers, patrons, and campus community members. I’m looking forward to creating more digital and physical exhibits in the near future.

Favorite Experience with the Special Collections & Archives: I really enjoy many aspects of archives work! The best part of my job involves working directly with collections to make them accessible to users. I’ve also really appreciated the chance to perform outreach for the archives through regular blog posts and social media posts. This past year, I worked with two interns in the archives. Teaching them about archival work and working with them has been very rewarding.

What have you learned while working here: Working with twentieth century archival collections means I’m constantly learning more about Baltimore’s history. When I moved to Baltimore I also began learning about its present. Moving to a new city is always an adventure, and I’ve found that my study of Baltimore’s history through my work has helped me to better understand the city today as well. There is always more to learn, and history is a great teacher.

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