Mind the Gap: A Conversation Among Archivists

Mind the Gap: A Conversation Among Archivists

From American Craft Inquiry: Volume 2, Issue 2

Mind the Gap Collage

Clockwise from top left: Beth Goodrich, Lynora Williams, Colleen McFarland Rademaker, Carey Hedlund, and Serenity Ibsen

Goodrich photo: Bailey Aaland / Hedlund photo: Sarah Parkinson / Ibsen photo: Mario Gallucci

Archives are a treasure trove of information, if we are willing to do the work necessary to mine the contents. While we excavate the material, we may find a vein of the precious record that we hope will lead to the mother lode of information, the answer to all of our questions, the complete story…only to find the vein peters out. The vein branches off in unexpected ways, the story is incomplete, or is missing entirely. As much as archives tell the story of us, they also represent the stories that are not told, the voices that were not carried forward. American Craft Inquiry was curious to learn more from archivists in the field of craft about how they identify the gaps in the archival record and work with users to bridge the gaps. We spoke with four information professionals who manage archival collections at a variety of institutions and invited them into a conversation about their collections, their historical records, and the users who seek out their treasures of craft history.
 


 

Lynora Williams

Lynora Williams directs the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). Prior to joining NMWA in September 2018, she was the librarian at the Arthur D. Jenkins Library at the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum. She sews garments and quilts.

Can you tell me a little bit about the scope of your archival collections at the Textile Museum?
The Textile Museum has 10 different archival collections. They vary greatly in size, and most of them are the collections of textile scholars. These are people who devoted their careers to understanding textile history.

How did the collections come to the Textile Museum?
Most of the collections predated my tenure there, but many scholars who donated their papers were people who had some relationship with the Textile Museum. So they may have been research associates or board members or people associated with board members. For the most part, they are from people who were “within the family” of the Textile Museum.

How did you go about promoting use of the collection? How did you encourage various communities to use primary sources in their research?
Well, to be honest, we did very little promotion. We did highlight that we have these collections, in general promotional material – brochures, handouts, newsletters, things like that – but we didn’t do any heavy promotion. And the reason for that was not that we didn’t want people to engage with the collection, but because the library was understaffed we weren’t able to provide the help and other resources for optimal access. Therefore, it did not seem prudent to heavily promote those collections.

How did those researchers who did use the collections find out about them?
Mostly word of mouth. The community of textile scholars is still relatively small; people know each other through professional associations and other scholarly interactions. They may have met a curator at our museum and learned about our archives. And if I was making any kind of public presentation, I would always mention these archives. So we weren’t keeping it a secret.

I know that archives can be tricky resources to use; they contain a wealth of information, but at the same time, there are gaps. Have you found any specific gaps in your particular collection? And how would you assist a researcher in bridging those gaps?
Definitely there are gaps. Typically, what’s preserved is whatever is closest to the subject’s heart. And the more peripheral materials – in their minds – which might be the very materials that would be most helpful to researchers, are often tossed aside. And that’s a problem. Many gaps were found by people doing ethnographic work. There are certain standards for that work and for maintaining field notes, images, etc. When people are working in that tradition, it’s certainly helpful to have a more well-rounded collection.

But what I see – not just at the Textile Museum but [also] in other situations – is that key information is just missing. So, for instance, if you have some documentation about a particular textile – let’s say a kilim made in Anatolia – you might make a note about that kilim but not say exactly what village you found it in or where you encountered it or on what date, etc. And without all that information, the value of the documentation is diminished. And this is not just true for scholars. It’s very true for artists, as well.

I had a colleague at the Textile Museum, curator Camille Brewer, who has a very strong expertise in helping artists and makers – particularly those who worked in fiber – to catalogue their work and create valuable metadata. That way, when the time came for their collections to be passed on, other people would understand as much as they could about those works.

Collaboration between archival professionals and artists who have a collection of materials they want to preserve is a really important association to establish in order to make those collections accessible to future researchers.
Camille Brewer is evangelical about this issue. I have great admiration for her. She even went to library school to develop deep skills in this area. And her focus was on African American artists – not exclusively, but that was of particular concern to her. She’d just frequently encounter people who would say, “Oh, we’ll get around to it later,” deferring these important steps. And then once they pass on, their works scatter to the winds, and there are no good records.

You mentioned earlier that the archives and the library are located in the same building. Did they function together or operate more like silos? How did the archives fit into the library?
The archives are considered part of the library. It’s a one-person library, with that one person responsible for the library and the research archives. It was almost impossible for just one person to maintain and build a library, as well as to steward archives.

I really feel that if institutional leadership truly wants to support the work of artists and art historians, they must provide the resources to make that possible.

My next question is regarding the user, specifically. I’m wondering if you see any difference between the way emerging scholars interact with the archives compared with how veteran scholars do.
I hate to generalize about this, plus we don’t have enough information about user behavior to make sweeping statements. But having said that, usually the younger scholars are just getting to know and value these primary resources. They’re still in a process of discovering what’s out there, how these materials can be useful, and how much time it takes to mine these resources. It’s an eye-opening thing for them to see how it’s done and how they are going to get to the juicy stuff.

But I have encountered a number of younger scholars who have passed that threshold and were like pit bulls. They were all-in. It’s very exciting to see that. One of the young scholars I’m thinking of has fully committed himself to studying and understanding the creation of American coverlets from the 1800s to the early 1900s. And his research is a force to be reckoned with because he has no problem going into an archive and plowing through it, spending hours and hours and hours committed to the research.

But it takes a while for emerging scholars to get to that point, and I wonder how much guidance they are receiving from professors and other scholars, as well as from librarians and archivists. I think serious educational efforts to awaken that interest would be useful.

Our institution has digitized many of our archival materials to increase access, but at the same time we are limiting our direct interaction with the researchers, so we’re not able to observe how they’re using the materials. I can imagine it’s a very different experience for a scholar working right in the building with the physical materials. I do wonder what might be missed because we’re having less of that personal, face-to-face interaction.
I think that’s right. And sometimes it takes a while to know what to do. I’m thinking of one of the prized archival collections at the Textile Museum. It’s the archive of Irene Emery, a preeminent textile scholar who studied textile structures and wrote a book decades ago called The Primary Structures of Fabrics, which is still an important text for textile scholars. The Textile Museum has her archives of all the materials she used to write that very important book, but it wasn’t until recently that we realized that creating images of the models she made for these different textile structures would be one of the most useful things we could do. And if we could mount those images online in a digital repository, that would be a tremendous service to students and scholars.

Who were the typical users of your archive? Were they other art historians? Textile scholars? Would artists use the archival materials to do research for their own practices?
We had many artists visit the library, but for the archives, it was mostly textile scholars.

I realize you no longer work at the Textile Museum, but what do you see for the future of that archive?
The senior curator at the museum and I were very aware that there’s a whole generation of textile scholars who are getting older and will be looking for homes for their materials. So we were concerned about getting prepared for that – developing the resources to process incoming archives, full collections, find the space, and promote those collections. I won’t say that we had answers, but it was very uppermost in our minds, thinking about what’s next and how to get ready for that. I was trying to have volunteers and interns assist us in laying a foundation, trying to develop the infrastructure that would make it possible to receive new collections.

When that’s figured out, and more resources can be devoted to the project, we can get more creative about increasing access to the collections and better engaging the community with these archives.

We’re not there yet, but I see that on the horizon. I really do.
 


 

Colleen McFarland Rademaker

Colleen McFarland Rademaker currently serves as associate librarian, special collections and archives at the Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass. Colleen received a BA in German and history from the College of Wooster, an MA in history from Cornell University, and an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

Can you tell me about the scope of your archival collection – what types of materials are there, the timespan that this collection covers?
We hold more than 200 manuscript collections and also have our own institutional archives. Together these make up about 6,000 linear feet of material. I’ve been here a little over a year, and it’s taken me a while to get my head around this collection; it’s very different from other kinds of collections I’ve worked with. Our collection has a lot in common with that of a historical society, except that we collect around a material rather than a place or a region.

Our collection is quite diverse. It includes records of glass manufacturers and glass cutters, such as those of the Fenton Art Glass company, a big 20th-century glass producer in West Virginia. We have the records of the National Association of Manufacturers of Pressed and Blown Glassware, and many records from local and regional glasscutting shops, such as T.G. Hawkes and Co., one of the biggest here in Corning. Then we also have the papers of glass artists, designers, and makers, such as Dominick Labino, Joel Philip Myers, Robert Sowers, Paul Marioni, and Robert Kehlmann, just to name a few.

We also have records of glass associations, such as the archives of the Glass Art Society, an association of glass artists. And then we also have the papers of significant glass collectors or glass galleries, which provide important information about provenance, both at the object and the collection level. Finally, we have large collections of works of art on paper – design drawings, photographs, trade and consumer catalogues, oral histories, and ephemera. The manuscript collections are mostly from the 19th, 20th, and 21st-centuries, though we do have some materials that date back to the 17th century.

Do these materials come to you primarily through donations? Do you solicit actively for those collections?
Yes and yes. We also are able to do some purchasing, which is a really great position to be in.

How do you go about promoting your collections and engaging with communities to encourage them to use your primary source materials?
One of the best ways to promote your collections is to provide access to online finding aids that describe them and get that material out there. We have more than 50 finding aids available online, and a couple more in production. The finding aids can be harvested by Google, so anybody who does an internet search can discover our stuff.

But we also need to be out there sharing the good news more actively about archives and archival collections.

We have an outstanding outreach librarian on our staff who helps us with that. And she works with other museum departments here to promote our holdings to both internal audiences and external audiences. She’s a regular contributor to the museum’s social media channels, which is another way that we’ve been able to get the word out about our collections. We’re also incredibly fortunate to have museum residencies available to both scholars and artists, which allow many people to work for about a month with our collections.

And I’m also a huge believer in the power of word of mouth. If one researcher has a good experience here, they are likely to tell other researchers. That experience may have to do with the richness of the collections. It may have to do with the level of service that we provide. But we do try to make sure that everybody who comes through the door has a good experience. And that’s another way that we deliberately try to get the word out.

Are there specific areas where you see gaps in your archives? If so, how do you work with researchers to bridge those gaps?
No matter what collection you’re managing as an archivist, you start to become aware of gaps and how you can fill them in. That list of artists and designers I gave you at the beginning of our conversation, for example, were all men. And I think they’re all white men. Archivists in this country are really having an awakening around diversity. We know, many different people work in the medium of glass, and we need to make sure that we’re capturing all of their stories and experiences.

One of the ways we’ve tried to address this is through oral histories. We’ve been able to have conversations with people who aren’t well represented in the record. For example, right here in Corning there are lots of people who have worked in glass. So we’ve got interviews with factory workers and glass chemists, people who worked for Corning Inc. or Steuben. Those people don’t necessarily have a say in which records come to the archives, but they do have an avenue through which to tell their stories, which we preserve. Also, we are especially seeking collections documenting the experiences of women in glassmaking. We recently acquired the papers of an artist named Lucartha Kohler.

She didn’t have the reputation that Harvey Littleton or Dominick Labino has, but here she was, a mother of four and a pioneering artist in a male-dominated field. Her papers provide insight into how a woman made her way, as an artist and as a teacher, in a man’s world. She’s not the big name, but her experiences as a glass artist are important and tell us something about how outsiders found a way inside. The digital humanities, as a methodology, speak to this, in that sometimes we see gaps, and that’s where the power of digital humanities can be employed.

Do you have specific examples of ways that you have employed digital humanities to fill gaps in your specific collection?
That’s probably an aspirational goal. But I think we have great potential.

I know that Corning has both a research library and archives. How do they work in conjunction with each other?
Our library was founded in 1951, right when the museum was opened, but our first archivist didn’t arrive until 50 years later. And as you probably know, that is not an unusual archival story. What is a little unusual here is that in the absence of an archivist, the library actually took up the management of archival materials, so we didn’t have the situation where manuscripts and institutional papers were left to sit in a closet in the basement. There’s always been active management and collecting conducted by the library, so there’s a very strong connection between the library and the archives.

And that is a great thing, because it ensures that our manuscript collections, in particular, are not an afterthought. They’re seen as a key component of the library collections. And that’s a real gift.

I hold a new administrative position with primary responsibility for archives and manuscripts. I joined two other administrative librarians; one’s an associate librarian for collection management, the other’s an associate librarian for public services. The three of us report to the library director. My role is to assist the library in implementing archival best practices that will help us do an even better job of what the librarians here have done well for a long time, which is making unique collections available to interested researchers.

This institution has a real passion for connecting people to the information they seek. And again, that’s a real gift.

Do you see a difference between the way emerging scholars and more established scholars approach research within the archives?
I don’t think I’ve worked long enough in this corner of the archival profession to answer that in a meaningful way. But I can say that during my 15-year career in archives, I have seen significant changes in the ways that scholars interact with archival materials in general, and because people can reproduce material so quickly and cheaply with digital technology, fewer researchers are actually reading archival materials in the archives. So a researcher will come, scan or photograph what they want and read it when they get home, making a trip to the archives a content-gathering mission rather than an intellectual retreat.

And that means they’re interacting with that material in a very different way than they were when they were sitting in a reading room and actually touching the physical materials.
Yes, that’s exactly right. And they spend less time chatting us up. However, the scholars here in our residency program have more time and actually do spend a lot more time talking with us, whereas someone who is traveling from another part of the country really doesn’t have the luxury to do so.

I wonder if something might be lost because a conversation might spark some ideas for different avenues of research. And if scholars are not having those conversations with staff, then those ideas might not come about.
That’s exactly right. And I also wonder what this means for building a community of scholars around an archival repository. If people are coming in quickly and leaving, they’re less likely to bump into somebody else – not necessarily a staff member, but another researcher who’s perhaps doing some research on a related topic. So I think that even though digital technology has helped us gain so much, we’re losing some things because of it, as well.

What do you see for the future of your archival repository?
I am going to answer that question with another one: Why is the archive important? Our collections tell the stories behind glass objects, whether they are works of fine art, common containers, or something in between. And in the last 20 years or so, research libraries have come to understand that it’s their unique holdings – their archives and manuscripts and other special collections – that hold the most value, and incredible, immeasurable research and teaching potential.

That’s a real shift. It used to be that the “old stuff” was locked away in a basement, and you didn’t really worry about it. But now that same “old stuff” is the content for digitization projects or digital humanities projects that are capturing the attention and interest of a lot of people. That’s something I get really excited about. And in my particular context, I am certain that our archival program will continue to grow. Part of that has to do with the fact that the first generation of studio glass artists are now retiring and thinking about their legacy. And that process, of course, often involves gathering up personal and professional papers and finding a home for them.

The other piece is this huge shift in publishing that’s resulted in vast quantities of born-digital, informally published materials on the web. And archival methodologies are very well suited to the collection and management of those kinds of materials. So those two things together make me very hopeful for the future of the archival program here. Seeing how that has evolved into fairly affordable, almost plug-and-play systems that help us do what we know we need to do, I’m actually very hopeful about the future.
 


 

Carey Hedlund

Carey Hedlund has been the archivist at Penland School of Crafts since 2014. Before becoming an archivist, she worked for many years as a landscape architect, author, and illustrator. 

Can you tell me about the scope of your archival collection, its timespan, and the types of materials you have?
We’re an institutional collection, which means I only collect things that are by and about Penland. If it happened here, or is happening here, I collect it. Our collection includes school records, journals, and sketchbooks, Penland catalogues, school publications, photographs, audiovisual material, architectural records, and artwork and craftwork, including class projects and objects that reflect the teaching mission or the values of the school. They could be made by important individuals connected to the school, preferably made at the school.

Our oldest things are probably from the turn of the last century. The school really wasn’t formed until the 1920s, so most of our collection is since that time. We have two notable focuses: the craft revival and economic reform of the 1920s and ’30s, which is central to the school’s formation and to the formation of our production arm – the Penland Weavers and Potters – and the studio craft movement of the 1960s.

Are all your donations from people who had a direct connection to Penland?
Usually, although sometimes they come from a collector or a family member. But sometimes it’s as random as, “I found this on eBay. It says Penland on the bottom. Do you want it?” The archives are relatively new; in the early 1990s, several people said, “We should do something about this,” and one of them was Liza Kirwin, from [the Smithsonian] Archives of American Art, and the other was a curator at the Mint Museum.

Do you actively solicit donations or do they just come to you?
At this stage, I am not really trying to grow the collection in terms of the past. My predecessor collected heavily in the early ’20s, ’30s phase, the Penland Weavers and Potters. So we have a fairly strong object collection there. I certainly collect the day-to-day current stuff, but until we have a good database built and a sense of what we already have, I am not soliciting donations.

How do you promote the use of your collection by researchers and artists?
Internal promotion begins with my supervisor, the executive director of the school. I have regular conversations and meetings with her and with the rest of the senior staff and the board of trustees. All of those things are important in terms of visibility. Externally, we still have a very low profile, because we’re not active in a web-based access system. I welcome the public, but everyone will have better access once there is a live archives-based database. That’s one of the things that I’ve been building, and that is my biggest push towards external availability. I also look at my grant writing, exhibitions, publications, professional activity, and one-on-one work as promoting the collections. In orientation meetings, the executive director or our operations manager always mentions that there’s an archivist on campus.

In 2016, we renovated the Penland Gallery & Visitors Center, which includes a Visitors Center Gallery, a dedicated space for exhibitions focusing on what we call “craft legacy.” This includes items from the archives, often paired with contemporary items made by somebody on campus. That’s a very satisfying outreach mechanism.

Also, I contact instructors and visiting artists before they arrive here and let them know if we’ve got something that will help them. I’ve also worked a fair amount with our studio coordinators; they send people to me all the time.

Finally, I helped prepare and co-instruct a course called “Craft in Context,” an eight-week concentration for which students’ home institutions give them full college credit. We did a three-week immersive traveling seminar, looking at the regional historic context of craft and industry [with a] specific focus on southern Appalachia, and talked about colonialism and slavery, the Industrial Revolution, craft revival, contemporary studio makers. It was a really interesting way to think about what is the history of craft.

How do you work with your archives users to bridge the gaps in your collection?
Simply by being in the South and being a product of segregation, of course, only white Americans were welcome here in the early days. The fascinating part is that by 1950, we had representatives from 60 other countries here, including Indonesia, Korea, parts of South America, but there was definitely exclusion of African Americans.

Does Penland have a library or are the archives the institution’s sole research repository?
The archives are definitely the research repository; we have no formal library. We have an unstaffed, honor-system, non-circulating reading room, stocked mainly with donated materials. But it’s a fairly extensive craft collection.

Do emerging researchers seem to have a different approach to using archives from more senior scholars?
Because you can’t access this collection as you can most others, I tend to be the person who guides anybody who comes in.

I have to remind both the seasoned and newer researchers of the importance of context in all of this and to be wary of assuming a fact before fully exploring something – to practice some critical thinking. I really welcome creative workers into the archives. I’ve had a number of people do winter residency projects here, or [I’ve] had a class come in and the instructor say, “Pull some things out. We want a still life.” I’m like, “This is great. I’d love to.” I love it when people are approaching the collections from a new way. Also, I deal with a lot of my seasoned researchers on the phone and by email. I am allowed to spend time doing that here.

How can you connect more with creatives who might be interested in using the archives?
I think it’s a continual reaching out. And it’s also word of mouth – as people produce work that begins here or references things in the archives, other people see it and think they’d like to do that too. I really do love seeing people get excited about what’s in the archives. And it’s very gratifying to be part of that process.

So what do you see for the future of your archives at Penland?
Like everybody, my worry is digital. Digital collections require digital preservation; digital preservation requires lots of money. It is very hard, in a small institution, to start justifying these kinds of expenses, because we certainly don’t have the IT capacity. It is also very hard to make people understand that there’s a difference between just keeping it and really preserving it.

Also, with social media and web-based publications replacing all the analog ephemera, we’re no longer building a complete picture of what’s happening here. We risk creating one of those gaps that we were talking about: gaps of smaller places, historical societies, institutional archives, creative practice archives; of losing these things because we can’t justify the expenses of building that system.

What are your hopes for the future of your collection?
I am hopeful about the importance of the legal and legacy information we collect here – every place needs to have some of that, and they need to keep it safe. We also have an important regional context in terms of Appalachian craft revival, from the early 20th century – Penland plays a very important role in that. We also play an important role in the educational and social reform of the early 20th century, on through the midcentury.

I hope researchers will keep finding interesting thematic threads that run through our archives, such as occupational therapy of the 1940s or counterculture of the 1960s. In that sense, I think small collections remain very relevant in terms of keeping important information. Larger collections might weed a lot of it out; but these small, quirky collections like ours fill gaps.

They keep people from forgetting about, “Oh, these are real people and real things, and in their own way influenced by a context, and it’s still here.” And I like that. I like that our history still is here.

And finally, I appreciate that Penland as an institution recognizes the importance of having someone care for this information. By having it here, by hiring somebody with the skills to take care of it, they have made a real investment in keeping their history.
 


 

Serenity Ibsen

Serenity Ibsen is Director of Library Services at Pacific Northwest College of Art. She holds an MLS from Emporia State University and a BA in Art History from University of Oregon. In her spare time, she studies mycology and is learning the art of bladesmithing. 

Can you tell me about the scope of the archival collection: The timespan it covers and whether it contains additional materials beyond the museum collection? 
The museum began in 1937 as the Oregon Ceramic Studio, then [became] Contemporary Crafts Gallery in 1964, Contemporary Crafts Museum & Gallery in 2003 and then Museum of Contemporary Craft in 2007. The museum archives go back to the founding of the museum in 1937 and end in 2016, when the museum officially closed the archives ended up at PNCA.

The archives contain so many different things. There are a lot of administrative archives, including papers from the leaders of the museum over the years, and then there’s financial stuff – registers from the store they once had, where local artists and designers would sell their work. There are exhibition files from the museum itself, and object files from the museum’s permanent collection. There are also artist files for artists who either exhibited at the museum or whose work is in the collection. We also have slides, photographs, films, and recordings of lecture series.

How do you see various communities using these collections? Is there a specific way that you are encouraging communities to engage with primary sources, such as your archival collections?
Most people who reach out to us for research either have an art object themselves and are looking for maker’s marks or more information about a specific artist, or they are distant family members or acquaintances of an artist. I’ve also spoken with people who were friends with an artist and saw some erroneous information on our online gallery and contacted me. That is great, because then we can work together to enhance the information about that artist.

We aren’t great at promoting our collections. We do have a really nice digital collection of physical works from the museum’s collections, and they do point to the archives that are housed in the basement. But there’s no real online finding aid; it just points people toward me.

As the director of the library, you are also responsible for maintaining the archives. Do the libraries and the archives work together? Or are they compartmentalized and operating in silos?
They’re pretty siloed. I think of them as two distinct collections – the library archives and the museum archives – neither of which has a finding aid because we haven’t had any dedicated staff to do that justice. So I’ve been trying to just maintain their spaces.

One of the interesting things about archives is that they can be a treasure trove of information, but as you explore them, you can find gaps in the information – what wasn’t saved – so that information is lost. Do you have any specific gaps in the archival collections?
In the museum archives, it seems like they saved everything. The gaps I’ve noticed, in both my collections, occur when there has not been enough staff or someone didn’t have the time to collect. So the gaps that I notice are kind of interesting temporal gaps. Some people are super-passionate about certain types of things. There might be a bare-minimum exhibition catalogue, [a few] clippings; then there are other times where archivists actively seek out as much information as they can find. So the gaps seem to be driven by the people who are building the archives.

In other discussions with archivists, there’s a recognition that certain types of voices are missing, such as those of women artists or certain cultural groups. Is that something that you’ve observed with your collection?
It’s striking that the Contemporary Crafts Gallery was started, maintained, and built by women, and there are many women craft artists in the Pacific Northwest, yet as I was going through exhibition catalogues and artists’ files, I found the collection is pretty heavily male. I don’t know, contextually, what that means, but I did notice that gap.

But then, looking at the digitization project that we did of the collections – maybe it’s a personal thing, but I am more drawn to the women’s work, so I don’t know. I’m still learning about this collection and really trying to contextualize some of that.

And it’s interesting to see how different repositories, within their efforts to put things online and make them more broadly accessible, may also attempt to bring out those voices that might typically be hidden or even absent from a collection.
I think that’s an opportunity for those of us who work with archives and collections.

Do you see a difference in perspective between what I might call emerging scholars and emerging artists doing research, as opposed to “immersed” scholars, those who are mid-career and thus more experienced using primary sources?
It seems like more mid-career scholars are doing fact-checking or back-up research, whereas emerging scholars are looking for common threads and inspiration. I have been collecting student publications and artist books and things like that, and the people interested in studying those objects tend to be the newer scholars who seem to be more interested in looking at the whole object or the whole context of the thing. People who are interested in incorporating craft in their work are really interested in the culture of people who have made things.

OK, so they may actually have a little more sensitivity or awareness of a cultural difference?
I think so. It’s hard to pinpoint it, because I work with a lot of undergraduate students, and we are trying to teach them about authority and cultural appropriation. But it is interesting to watch their process as new scholars and questioning their own authority and voices. They spend more time contextualizing what they’re researching, so imagine if they’re reading a letter that was a primary source. Often, they will try to contextualize what else was happening locally or in the world.

So how do you see the importance of your archival collection, and what do you see for its future?
The fact that this museum was built and maintained primarily by women is something really special. And you can see their hand in that history. I’m concerned that it is housed properly and that there is enough access to the collection for people to even know it exists. That’s something we’ve been working on, ideas around the future of the right institution to house something of this sort.

Are you hopeful for the future of this collection?
I am very hopeful. I’m hoping that most of the archives stays with the physical objects that it describes. I think it could also be interesting as a historical business document as to how small organizations were once built. The Pacific Northwest is proud of having a lot of entrepreneurial spirit and DIY mentality, and this reflects that.

I think that small collections like mine have some gems in them that are culturally significant, especially concerning Portland and the Pacific Northwest, and who really built the craft vibe in our community.

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