Meet your Education Committee Chair: Josh Hager

With our new slate of officers assuming their positions today, I'm resuming our interviews with the Executive Board. Stay tuned for more installments in the future.

What jobs have you had in the archival realm?

Josh Hager photo

For the past five years plus, I have served as Reference Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina, where I split my time between helping visiting researchers in our Search Room and answering time-sensitive reference queries dealing with legal issues. I started at the State Archives of North Carolina in February 2014 as a Processing Assistant in the Correspondence Unit that handles all remote reference queries.

While I was attending graduate school, I worked as a Digital Production Assistant at Duke University on the Content, Context, and Capacity Project for digitizing the Long Civil Rights Movement. I also worked as a Reference Assistant at North Carolina State University's Special Collections Research Center. I got my start in archives as an undergraduate Student Assistant in Reference and Technical Services at Duke University's Rubenstein Library (then known as the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library).

What is your educational background?

I hold a BA in History and French Studies from Duke University, an MA in Public History (Archival Management concentration) from North Carolina State University, and an MS in Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My archival research has focused on increasing the efficacy of social media outreach. I was fortunate enough to have an abridged version of my thesis, which discussed social media outreach in archival institutions, published in American Archivist in 2015 as the winner of the Pease Award for Outstanding Writing by a Graduate Student.

What is your favorite part of your job and what do you consider to be the most important part of your job?

The most important part of my job is my role as the staff specialist for providing transcripts of defunct post-secondary schools. Under North Carolina law, the State Archives of North Carolina is the agency responsible for maintaining these crucial transcripts in the event no other agency can fulfill that role. As of April 2019, we have records for more than 80 closed schools. In a manner of speaking, I act as the de facto registrar for all of those schools' former students who need transcripts for returning to school or obtaining employment.

My favorite part of my job is any chance I get to conduct tours and instruction sessions. I occasionally have the chance to lead tour groups when they visit the Archives and it's always a joy to see people get so excited about the materials that I work with every day. When high school and college classes visit from nearby institutions, I relish the opportunity to provide hands-on training in primary sources while curating selections of materials on a wide range of historical and other academic subjects. Outreach is my professional passion, so any chance I get to help with our outreach efforts is always a most rewarding experience.

Tell us about something you're particularly proud of from your job or your institution.

I'm proud of our institutional efforts over the past several years to live up to our mission as the repository for all citizens of North Carolina. Whether it's our digitization of African-American education records, our expansion of the oral history program to include such persons as any North Carolinian who has served in the military and women who "changed the world" as part of a state government initiative, or our collaborative efforts with varied groups and institutions across the state, I'm happy to see the State Archives taking active steps towards inclusion and diverse presences in the collections and outreach efforts. I look forward to our next steps on this important journey as we continue to live up to the adage that every record tells someone's story.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a similar career?

During your education, take as many technical classes as you can as electronic records provide so many exciting and difficult challenges across their life-cycle from creation to access. On the flip side, if you want to specialize in reference, subject knowledge is critical. Don't be afraid of pursuing two Master's Degrees, one in Information Science and one in an academic subject, to round out your schooling.

More so than education, however, is to simply go "out there" and find a repository where you can get hands-on experience. Whether you process a collection, create an exhibit, or scan records, you're gaining the skills that you need to hit the ground running in your archival career.

Who has been key to shaping your professional outlook?

In archival literature, especially as a reference and outreach specialist, I've always followed Randall Jimerson's model of the Archives as a space both sacred in its mission yet by its nature accessible to all. He describes Archives as a cross between a temple of cultural memory, a "prison of control," and a diner with the most expansive menu of knowledge available. I think that mix of maintaining reverence of materials while ensuring accessibility to knowledge, along with the acknowledgment that we must challenge the "prison of control" mentality rather than enable any mindset that feels that archives are cordoned off from most people, most informs my professional outlook.

I've also been fortunate to have so many wonderful teachers and professionals from which to learn the trade. Dick Lankford, Winston Atkins, Helen Tibbo and others taught me classes which provided me with the intellectual framework to pursue my archival career. Listing every professional who has mentored me in some way would take some time. However, I should single out Elizabeth Dunn at Rubenstein Library for seeing that I was a student assistant who wanted to pursue this field as my career and helped me along that path; Jennifer Baker, formerly of NC State and now at Rubenstein, who taught me how to run a reading room and showed me the determination to answer every query as thoroughly as possible; and all of the archivists at the State Archives who have been my valued colleagues over the past five years plus and are always generous with their time and advice.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time in SNCA leadership?

I am honored to take on the role of Education Committee Chair. I will work with the Education Committee and the rest of the Executive Board to continue the great work that Stephanie Bennett and the members of the Committee have completed over the past two years. I look forward to offering new workshops on topics that span all facets of archival work. I'm also looking for innovative ways to provide educational opportunities to archivists at all types of institutions, such as webinars and smaller workshops in cities across the state. I'm always looking for new great ideas! Once again, thanks to all the members of SNCA who have provided me with this privilege to serve the archivists of North Carolina!

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