On collaboration

Written by Steven Duckworth on May 22nd, 2014

The PACSCL Hidden Collections project involves a great deal of collaboration. We work with a processing partner each day. We exchange ideas and stories with the other processing teams. And we work with our Project Manager and the archivists and other staff at whichever repository we’re currently located. And lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this (mainly due to the work environment where I was processing).

I am, quite frankly, frequently surprised at how much I enjoy all of this collaboration. For many years now, my ‘job’ hasn’t been something I truly enjoy. And due to that, I’d forgotten how that feels and had fallen into the stereotypical thought pattern of disliking ‘teamwork’ or group projects. Both of these terms had come to be associated with projects I never had much interest in or working with people I didn’t really connect with. Having been with PACSCL for 6 months now and ruminating on this idea of collaboration – and how I don’t hate it – it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t used to think negatively of teamwork.

I have been a musician (a cellist) for almost 25 years. And one of the things I most love playing is chamber music. Though I never thought about it in this way before, being in a chamber group is an ultimate form of collaboration. Musicians know there is never one right answer – though there can often be wrong answers – and we work together to bring about the best final outcome. We combine our knowledge of our instruments, the composer, music and world history, and performance practice, as well as newer techniques and ideas, to make an amazing moment with every piece.

With archives, it seems much the same. We take our knowledge of archival theory and practice, our experience with research and patrons, and filter in new ideas as they come into play, and create access to collections in the most logical and constructive way we can. The dynamics of this project are especially beneficial to the collaborative practice. Students and recent graduates are processing under the direction of more experienced archivists in an environment that encourages us to speak out and exchange ideas, both with our peers and our mentors. So, though playing cello is no longer the central focus of my daily life, I’m very excited to have returned to a profession that can offer that same sense of community, joy, and accomplishment.

 

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