Meet your Membership Chair: Winnie Titchener Coyle

Coyle pictureWhat jobs have you had in the archival realm?
Since 2012, I've been working at Biltmore Estate in Asheville as an archivist and oral historian. Before, when I was a student at SILS in Chapel Hill, I worked as a liaison between the Southern Oral History Program and the Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Library. I also worked on digitization projects and did freelance transcription and editing work to make ends meet.

What is your educational background?
I earned my masters in Library and Information Science from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2011 and bachelors degrees in English Literature and French from UNC-Greensboro in 2007.

What is your favorite part of your job and what do you consider to be the most important part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is the feeling of pure satisfaction that comes with bringing order out of chaos (or legacy finding aids). I also love talking to people and learning about their lives and experiences.

The most important part of my job, in my opinion, is recording those stories with interviewees for the oral history program and adding those interviews to the historical record of Biltmore Estate and Western North Carolina more broadly. Also important is providing reference services to internal "guests" (such as curatorial staff) and external guests (often people doing research on ancestors who worked on the Estate as construction workers, farmers, dairy workers, servants, rangers, etc.)

Tell us about something you're particularly proud of from your job or your institution.
For a business archive/museum, my institution is wonderful about providing time and resources for research, professional development, and outreach that goes beyond the scope of our day-to-day jobs. There is a real sense of professionalism and cooperation among our team, and I'm really proud to work alongside the curators, conservators, and registrars who make up our department.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a similar career?
First: start looking at job postings, and keep tabs on what kinds of jobs are available and what qualifications they require. Then, if any particular area or niche appeals to you within the archives world, go for it. Keep up your skills in other areas, but don't be reluctant to dig in with work that fascinates you. When you interview with potential internships or employers, it's important to be enthusiastic -- if you can shape your career to reflect your true interests, that enthusiasm will be genuine.

And do build relationships with people outside your institution and niche. If nothing else, you'll have more people to chat with at conferences! And  you can also learn a lot about this field by looking at the work other people are doing around you.

Who has been key to shaping your professional outlook?
I can't overstate the impact that working at both Wilson Library and the Center for the Study of the American South had on me when I was a student -- the leadership, my coworkers, and other student workers were such wonderful examples of how to be archivists and oral historians with care and commitment. And the work of Kathleen Blee, Nell Irvin Painter, and Bill Chafe have been useful in learning about the uses and limitations of oral history work, and about some of the nuts-and-bolts aspects of putting projects together.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time in SNCA leadership?
The Membership Committee is working now on getting more social events on the calendar, and we are also looking at the possibility of a membership directory. Stay tuned!

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