things you should know

Who Made That Thing?

Process patent, from http://www.google.com/patents/US2541851
From Google Patents

Time for the second installment of “Who Made That Thing?”! Aren’t you excited? This time we are going to leave the world of office supplies and talk about a beloved childhood toy . . . silly putty!

Silly putty was invented accidentally in 1943 by General Electric engineer James Wright. Wright, working for the U.S. War Production Board, was attempting to create an affordable substance similar to rubber because World War II limited the supply of natural rubber from Asia.

The weird addictive putty was the result of mixing boric acid with silicone oil. It wasn’t a very good rubber substitute, but turned out to be super bouncy, super stretchy, and able to transfer an image off of a page.* Wright sent samples of his “Nutty Putty” out to colleagues and scientists, but no one could come up with a practical use and it went unnoticed for several years.

In 1949, Wright’s putty came to the attention of toy store owner Ruth Fallgatter and marketing consultant Peter Hodgson. Hodgson purchased the rights and began marketing the product as a toy, initially called “Bouncy Putty” then finally “Silly Putty.” He hired students from Yale to package his initial batch in colorful eggs and sold them for $1. Why eggs? Because it was Easter time, of course.

Yale students packaging Silly Putty, GE Adventures Ahead, 1951. From Science 2.0.
Yale students packaging Silly Putty, GE Adventures Ahead, 1951. From Science 2.0.

Hodgson proved to be a marketing whiz and moved his product out of the hands of adults (as a novelty) and into the hands of kids (as a full-blown toy). He even created an ad campaign which is credited as being one of the first commercials geared towards children. Sales quickly took off making it one of the most popular toys of all time and raising Hodgson’s wealth to $140 million at the time of his death in 1976 (and that’s 1970s money, people!).

After Hodgson’s death, Silly Putty was purchased by Binney & Smith, of Crayola family. Silly Putty was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2001.

National Toy Hall of Fame
Today I Found Out
Science 2.0
Mental Floss

*Did you know it can’t do this anymore as modern newspapers are made with nontransferable ink? I didn’t.

Things You Should Know About Catherine the Great

This month I’ve been listening to a spectacular biography of Catherine the Great. I’ve learned a lot about her and I think you should learn about her too. Catherine (Yekaterina Alexeyevna) ruled Russia from 1762 until her death in 1796, making her the longest-ruling monarch and female leader in the country’s history. She came to power after a coup d’état to overthrow her husband and grew to be a great power in Europe.

So, without further ado, here are six and a half things you should know about Catherine the Great.

Catherine, 1754 Louis Caravaque [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Catherine, 1754
Louis Caravaque [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Catherine wasn’t Russian.
Catherine was born as Sophie Friederike Auguste in Prussia in 1729. Empress Elizabeth, a daughter of Peter the Great who had connections with Sophie’s family, brought her to Russia in 1744 as the future bride of Archduke Peter. The fifteen year-old girl embraced Russia. She converted to the Russian Orthodox faith (becoming Catherine) and committed herself to learning everything she could about the Russian language and customs. This would serve her well in the end, as her husband Peter rejected all things Russian angering his future subjects.

2. Catherine came to power through a coup.
Catherine’s husband Peter III ruled for only six months before she took power in a July 1762 coup d’état, arresting her husband and forcing him to abdicate. [Hit up a history source to learn more about the problems with Peter, the promises made to him during the abdication, and his death a week later.] In the eyes of many – including some of Catherine’s own supporters – her son, Paul, should have been put on the throne with her ruling as regent until he came of age. After all, Paul was officially the next in line for the throne. Catherine followed the precedent of Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great, who ruled after his death. Complicating the situation more, there was another former-infant tsar held in captivity who had been overthrown by Empress Elizabeth [look him up too, poor guy had a sad life]. Catherine was often worried about the security of her position.

3. Catherine believed in the philosophies of the Enlightenment and corresponded with some of the great minds of her time.
Catherine was a big supporter of Enlightenment ideas and tried to reform Russian policies, politics, and culture to align. Some of her efforts were successful, some were not. She corresponded with some of the greatest minds of her time (and some of the greatest minds of all time), including Voltaire and Diderot. She went farther than correspondence though, welcoming scholars to visit her in Russia, supporting them with gifts and employment, and bringing their work to Russia.

Oil on canvas portrait of Empress Catherine the Great by Russian painter Fyodor Rokotov, 1763 By Ф. С. Рокотов (http://www.art-catalog.ru/index.php) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Oil on canvas portrait of Empress Catherine the Great by Russian painter Fyodor Rokotov, 1763
By Ф. С. Рокотов (http://www.art-catalog.ru/index.php) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Catherine’s children – including future emperor Paul, probably – were illegitimate.
According to her memoirs, Catherine and Peter’s marriage was not consummated and her four children were products of affairs (although one child was born after her husband’s death). There has been some argument amongst historians over whether Paul, Catherine’s first child, was actually illegitimate or if it was a rumor to further discredit Peter. I don’t know, I think I’m going to go with Catherine on this one. It seems unlikely given the state of their marriage that they could pull it together to procreate nine years after walking down the aisle. I think she took matters into her own hands to produce the heir who would secure her position in Russia.

5. Catherine wrote her own epitaph well before her death in 1796.
The inscription on her tomb reads “Catherine II rests here. She came to Russia in 1744 to marry Peter III. At the age of 14 she took a three-sided decision: to enchant her husband, Empress Elizabeth and the people of Russia. And she used every single chance to succeed in this. Eighteen years of loneliness and boredom made her read many books. As she mounted to the Russian throne she did her best to give her people happiness, freedom and wellbeing. She forgave people easily and hated nobody. She was charitable, good-tempered and loved life. She was a true republican in her politics and was kind-hearted. She had friends. She worked easily. She loved social life and the arts.”

Catherine II, 1794 Dmitry Grigorievich Levitzky [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Catherine II, 1794
Dmitry Grigorievich Levitzky [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

6. Catherine is remembered more for her sexual prowess than her accomplishments.
Catherine had twelve lovers in her lifetime. These men provided the love and companionship she badly needed. Some of these relationships were long and loving, others were just a bit of fun. She may have secretly married one (FYI: not unusual even in the Russian atmosphere at the time – Elizabeth I may have secretly married one of her lovers and Peter the Great secretly married a peasant before announcing it and making her Catherine I several years later). Since Catherine is a woman, she is judged for these relationships in ways her male counterparts are not. Even for other royals who are also remembered for their romantic shenanigans – I’m thinking Henry VIII here – these types of unofficial relationships are rarely included. In reality, Catherine’s relationships weren’t really a concern for her contemporaries until the age gap between her and her lovers grew out of proportion. Of course, that is a double standard that still exists today.

6 1/2. Catherine did not have sex with a horse.
Seriously, guys. Shouldn’t that be obvious? Lazy history is full of rumors originally started to discredit or elevate historical figures. Don’t believe stories that sound unbelievable without checking the facts. While we are at it: George Washington didn’t chop down that cherry tree. Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake.” Paul Revere didn’t make his midnight run alone. And Elvis really is dead.

Things You Should Know About Ambiverts

One of the first things you should know about ambiverts is that I am not one. I’ve written extensively about my introvert nature and that all still stands; I absolutely fall firmly on that side. I am going to go ahead and humorously venture into unknown territory though.

caa222755c6a04fa7d99086e7e4485e91. Ambiverts have both introvert and extrovert traits working in sweet harmony with each other. Where an introvert likes to recharge alone and an extrovert is energized in the presence of others, an ambivert can thrive in both situations. So basically, you are smack dab in the middle without any of the crazy that either extreme brings. [Yes, I just called both introverts and extroverts crazy. Aren’t we all just a little bit? Well, except for ambiverts because I just said they weren’t. Geez, this argument is falling apart.]

2. Ambiverts probably aren’t walking around talking to anyone they see on the street, but they are pleased to join into the conversation when invited or necessary. [This can also be called “southern,” but that is a different “things you should know about” altogether.] An ambivert can happily run around all extroverted during the day, but need some alone time to recharge in the evening. They are typically social, but not aggressive. Quiet, but not reclusive. This is different than an introvert or extrovert who can “try on” the other personality when necessary.

3. We are all a little bit ambivert. Most of us don’t fall on the extreme introvert or extreme extrovert side of the scale. Just like in politics, most of us are somewhere in the middle. I’ve seen several mentions online about the “ambiverted introvert” or “ambiverted extrovert” and I think those are probably more realistic descriptors. You have to remember, none of these labels are absolute; they are just terms we made up to help us understand particular personality traits.

4. You rarely hear about ambiverts until people get tired of talking about introvert/extrovert. Or, more likely, run out of interesting gifs to illustrate their humorous points [guilty!]. That is because ambivert is much less fun and leaves little to argue about. Ambivert is kind of the “well, people are people” label in the personality world. And that just doesn’t fly on the internet these days.

5. People like ambiverts. In general, being an ambivert means different people can appreciate the traits they like best. An extreme extrovert or extreme introvert sharing an ambivert friend might argue (fight to the death?) over where that friend fits on the spectrum. Only if they are completely ninnies though; dump those friends, dear ambivert.

So, survey time. Where do you fall on the scale? If we are talking 1-10, 1 = full introvert and 10 = full extrovert, I’m probably a firm 3. Or 6 if I’ve been drinking.

Other posts in the “Things You Should Know” series:

Things You Should Know About Mount Rushmore

Sure, you should know this stuff. It might just help you win your local bar’s trivia night some time.

FYI: This information, unless otherwise specified, comes from the National Park Service’s Mount Rushmore National Memorial website, as I don’t know a thing about Mount Rushmore. See, we are all learning.

1. Mount Rushmore was created (carved? sculpted? dynamited?) over a period of fourteen years by approximately four hundred workers at a cost of $989,992.32. The original concept was even grander in scale, but funding issues kept it from being completed as planned. Actually, the whole process of creating the project, getting permission for the project, and finding funding for the project was quite complicated and overtly-political in nature. If you are interested in the details, visit the NPS site to learn more.

What do you think – do you like Rushmore better as it was envisioned or as it looks today?

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Courtesy of the National Park Service
Courtesy of the National Park Service

2. President Coolidge dedicated the memorial prior to beginning construction in August 1927 – “We have come here to dedicate a cornerstone that was laid by the hand of the Almighty. On this towering wall of Rushmore, in the heart of the Black Hills, is to be inscribed a memorial which will represent some of the outstanding features of four of our Presidents, laid on by the hand of a great artist in sculpture. This memorial will crown the height of land between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic seaboard, where coming generations may view it for all time. . . The union of these four Presidents carved on the face of the everlasting hills of South Dakota will constitute a distinctly national monument. It will be decidedly American in its conception, in its magnitude, in its meaning and altogether worthy of our Country. No one can look upon it understandingly without realizing that it is a picture of hope fulfilled.” You can read his full speech here.

Each president had an unveiling/dedication ceremony as the project progressed – Washington in 1930, Jefferson in 1936, Lincoln in 1937, and Roosevelt in 1939.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke when the Thomas Jefferson portion of the memorial was revealed in August 1936 – “On many occasions, when a new project is presented to you on paper and then, later on, you see the accomplishment, you are disappointed: but it is just the opposite of that in what we are looking at now. I had seen the photographs: I had seen the drawings and I had talked with those who are responsible for this great work, and yet I had had no conception until about ten minutes ago not only of its magnitude but of its permanent beauty and of its permanent importance. . . . What we have done so far exemplifies what I have been talking about in the last few days – cooperation with nature and not fighting with nature.” You can read the rest of that here.

3. Mount Rushmore was named after Charles E. Rushmore, an attorney from New York City who was originally in the Black Hills area around 1885 working with property titles and returned often to hunt. As the story goes, the mountain didn’t have an official name when Rushmore first visited the Black Hills and a local joked they would call it Mount Rushmore. Later, after learning the mountain was commonly called Slaughterhouse Rock (seriously, why?), Rushmore joked that he was there often enough to name it after him and some locals laughingly complied. This fun story could be more myth than truth, but – whatever the story – Mount Rushmore was recognized as the official name in 1930. According to Wikipedia and several other random citations online, Rushmore donated $5,000 to the memorial’s construction.

4. I’m going to pull this fact straight from the NPS website, as it it too fun not to share: “Mountain Goats are not native to the Black Hills. The population can be traced back to six goats, a gift to Custer State Park by Canada in 1924, that escaped from their pens and found their home among the granite peaks of the Black Hills. There are now approximately 200 mountain goats in the area.”

Runaway goats!

5. Gutzon Borglum, Mount Rushmore’s sculptor, began work on a large Hall of Records in the valley behind the presidential heads in 1938. He envisioned this as a museum-like place that would tell the story of the memorial (much like the current visitor’s center does) and some history of the United States. Upset by this refocus of work while the main sculpture remained unfinished, Congress threatened to cut off funding and Borglum stopped work on the Hall in 1939. It was never finished and is currently inaccessible to visitors. The photograph shows the entrance to the Hall of Records.

Courtesy of the National Park Service
Courtesy of the National Park Service

Things You Should Know About Preserving Your Family Photos

I’m talking actual physical photos here folks, not that new-fangled digital stuff. [Seriously though, if you aren’t taking care of your digital photographs you are putting your memories in danger. Read up on some tips here. Maybe I’ll do a post on that later.]

1. It is all about storage. Storage, Storage, Storage.
In my opinion, the most important thing you can do to preserve your photographs for future generations is to store them in a place that is dry with a cool, stable temperature. No attic. No basement. No garage. Avoid direct sunlight. Bring those babies into your main house. Sure, there are lots more specific storage techniques (and I’ll talk about those in a minute), but you can make a huge difference just by doing this one simple thing. Don’t put this off – do it now!

Okay, let’s move on to something a little more advanced than that. I’m going to cheat here and take my information directly from the National Archives. (Pro tip #1: Trust a qualified source!)

“Look for paper enclosures that are made from a high quality, non-acidic, lignin-free paper (buffered or unbuffered are OK) made from cotton or highly purified wood pulps. . . . Look for plastic enclosures made from uncoated pure polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester (also called Mylar D or Mellinex 516). These are considered stable and non-damaging to photographs. Polyester is crystal clear and is more rigid than polyethylene and polypropylene. None of these recommended plastics have any odor to them, while polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic does have a strong odor (the new car smell). Avoid the use of PVC plastics–they generate acids which can fade the photograph in time. . . .

Photographs can also be stored in plastic pocket pages and standard size plastic sleeves, grouped in folders for organization, then stacked in a box. Photographs 8 x10 inches or smaller can be stored vertically on their long edges in standard size boxes which are available for many photographic formats, including modern and nineteenth-century photographs. Photos larger than 8 x 10 inches, or those with damaged edges (brittle, torn) should be stored flat in small stacks inside standard size boxes. Groups of similar sized photos which are all the same type, such as modern 4 x 6 inch color snapshots, or older 2-1/4 inch black-and white snapshots, can be stored vertically or horizontally together without extra housings–photos which are the same type are usually safe to store in contact with each other.

Boxes should be neither over stuffed or under filled. Over stuffing causes damage when photos are pulled out or filed away; under filling causes the photos to slump and curl.”

2. Watch those fingerprints.
I’m not saying you have to go out and buy white cotton gloves (although feel free if you want to be fancy!), but fingerprints will cause a lot of damage to your images. Always have clean hands when you will be handling your photos and always hold them by the edges. You won’t even see the oil residue you are leaving behind, but in a few years that tell-tale fingerprint will pop up. The only thing you can do at that point is to scan it and try to remove it digitally. Speaking of scanning. . .

3. Consider scanning.
Take the time to scan your photographs and create high-quality digital images. From there, you have the digital versions to view anytime you want, you could print off hard copies for family members to enjoy instead of the originals, or you could even create a fun photo book gift from one of the many websites out there. If you do scan, make sure you are taking the proper steps for long-term preservation of those files (see the link above to get started).

I feel like this should be common sense, but know from experience it is not – do not discard the originals after you scan them. Seriously people.

4. No rubber bands, paperclips, staples, or writing.
Rubber bands turn into this substance that is somehow hard and still sticky when they deteriorate. Paperclips and staples leave scrapes, indentions, or holes behind and can rust then they deteriorate. Writing? Yeah, that one might come as a surprise. When you write on the back of a photograph, it can very easily push through to the other sides. Even if you are delicate, ink contains acid that could cause problems in the future. If you want to label your photos, you can purchase a special acid-free pen or – at the very least – use a pencil.

5. Choose albums wisely.
If you like to store your photographs in easily accessible albums, pay careful attention to what you are buying. Photo and scrapbooks are pretty popular right now and it should be easy to find an album that uses “archival-quality” materials. Avoid those things with the sticky pages. No glue. No tape.


*My July “Things You Should Know” series is officially over. Due to its popularity, I think I will make it a monthly feature. Look for posts towards the end of each month.

Things You Should Know About [US] Copyright

What is it and when does it apply?
Copyright is complicated and the nuances are still argued in court. I’ll give you some basics here, but I am by no means a copyright lawyer. You should not use my informational post as a basis for a copyright claim.

Let’s start with the official U.S. Copyright Office definition (from copyright.gov): “A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for “original works of authorship”, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. “Copyright” literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work.” Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright.”

Copyright kicks in the moment you created a protected work. Automatically, no registration required. The little © isn’t even required. Officially registering your work however, creates an accepted public record of your copyright and is necessary if you need to pursue legal action in the future. This blog, for example, is automatically protected under copyright law, but is not officially registered with the copyright office.

FYI: There is no worldwide copyright law. Accepted practice varies. Have a couple of weeks and want to read the entire U.S. law, you can get it here.

FYI #2: Copyright, patent, and trademark are all different things. You cannot copyright a name for example, but could protect it through trademark. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Department for a simple explanation of the differences.

What is public domain?
A work is in the public domain if the copyright has expired or if the author has explicitly placed it in the public domain. You can use works in the public domain freely without obtaining permission. Generally, this applies to works published before 1923.

But it gets even more complicated: Works published between 1923 and 1977 are all over the place; use  this nifty slider chart to help you determine its status. For works published after 1977, the copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death (after the last surviving author’s death if multiple). Works from corporate authors are protected 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation (whichever is shorter). There are many exceptions however, as changing laws over the years have allowed for copyright extensions. As of right now, no new copyrights will expire and place works into the public domain until 2019 (see the copyright term extension act, also known as the Sonny Bono Act, or Mickey Mouse Protection Act).

FYI: Generally, documents created by the federal government are public domain.

What is fair use?
Let’s start with the U.S. Copyright Office definition again: “Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. . . . The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.”

Key points here – just because you cite your source doesn’t mean what you are using falls under fair use. Just because your purpose is education, doesn’t mean it is fair use (I can’t copy an entire book for my research purposes, for example). Another example, a high school student can freely quote from a source for use in a research paper, but cannot quote large sections in place of their own thoughts.

FYI: Your “fair use” of a work should not impact the originally author financially.

What is Creative Commons?
The best way to explain creative commons is to take it straight from their website (which I can do thanks to the terms of their CC license): “Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.”

What does this mean? Authors can decide to put a CC license for more flexibility in what they allow users to do with their work. It encourages sharing, because the use terms are clearly spelled out and often much more liberal than “all rights reserved.”

My opintion? Creative Commons is awesome.

Things You Should Know About Introverts

From MeetTheIntroverts.com
From MeetTheIntroverts.com
1) We need to recharge alone.
This right here is the cusp of the entire introvert v. extrovert debate (if there is one, anyway) – Introverts need to be alone to recharge. We tend to get completely worn out by socializing. This is basically what it means to be an introvert.

2) We don’t hate being around people, but we probably hate crowds.
I love being with people, but if you drop me into a large crowd I instantly feel like I’m alone and invisible. I try to avoid situations where I feel that way, so I may decline your open invitation to some random event. It doesn’t mean I don’t like to be around you, it just means I like to have more control over my surroundings.

3) We don’t mind silence.
I can sit beside you in silence and not think we are having a bad time. This is especially true on road trips and can be a little confounding to true extroverts. For this reason, I especially like going to the movies where it is already considered rude to chat. Rule #1 for dealing with introverts – Don’t tell me I’m “too quiet.” I hate that. Sorry I’m making you uncomfortable, but you really don’t get to decide how much I have to talk.

4) Just because we are introverted doesn’t mean we are shy.
Introvert and shy are actually two different things. Google it! In my case, I’m a shy introvert (the double whammy!).

5) We can turn on an extroverted personality when necessary, but it is especially draining.
See #1 and #2. I have no problem getting up in front of a group of people and giving a talk. I don’t even get nervous by a question and answer period. But – here is the thing – I will need major recharge time afterwards and I won’t be able to keep up this extroverted illusion all day. I can turn it on to dazzle a crowd, but if you take me out for lunch afterwards, I’ll probably just listen to you talk. I am an excellent listener.

6) We aren’t judging you.
See #3. Did I get quiet? Do I have a mean look on my face? I’m not judging you; I’m just wrapped up in my thoughts with my bitchy-resting-face on. I might have even forgotten you were there. Sorry, just poke me. I didn’t do it on purpose.

7) We secretly love it when you cancel plans.
I like being with you, but finding out I suddenly don’t need to be “on” and it wasn’t actually me that backed out? – priceless! Don’t worry if you have to cancel, I’m probably thrilled to be able to stay in my pajamas.

8) We can get very wrapped up in our own thoughts.
My inner monologue is epic. When you have a strong monologue constantly running in the background, it is pretty easy to settle-in and listen for a while. I have to work through things in my head before I proceed, so I usually need a few minutes. When I’m ready to move forward though, I am 100% on top of it!

9) We can be pretty bad at connecting.
You know when you have had a really bad day and you just want to call up a friend and chat? Yeah, I’m bad at that. I tend to wait for extroverts to reach out and include me, so when the time comes that I need support, I can be a bit lost.

10) We don’t like to hang around.
That time after an event or meeting ends and stragglers hang around to talk – yeah, I know this is the perfect time to make more plans, connect with new people, and get involved with future projects, but I really really really hate this. I’m probably already checking my phone in my car before you have even picked up your purse. Small talk with strangers is my kryptonite.

11) We have strong opinions.
Just because I have difficultly sharing them sometimes doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions. Give me an extra minute to compose my thoughts and I will continue to push myself to speak up sooner. It is a give and take here.

Like talking about this kind of stuff? Check out my post Things You Should Know About Ambiverts.

Things You Should Know About Being an Archivist

06b6087449026b7d76f735632f0232bfIn my regular life, I’m an archivist. I deal with getting historical records ready and available for researchers. And . . . a whole lot of other stuff I won’t try to explain here. I work in a manuscripts repository, not a government or corporate archives, so most of what I’m going to tell you about deals with an environment of local family history and business records.
[Right: What I think I look like when doing my job.]

1) You will have to deal with people.
I hear so many people say they want to enter the history professions because they don’t like dealing with people. Big mistake. While it is true that I do spend much of my week sitting in a quiet room, a huge part of my job is serving the public. Whether it is working in the research room, assisting off-site researchers, finding photographs for publishers, or coordinating with other institutions . . . well, there is just a lot of people work. Yes, there are archival jobs out there where you may never come in contact with the public, but in general, welcome to the service industry dude.

2) You will develop relationships with people you have never met. Probably people long deceased.
When you spend entire days working through the papers of another person, you get to know them pretty well. You start to understand how their family related to each other, how they liked to spend their days, what they were interested in, etc. When working with family papers in particular, you often come across interesting and/or humorous stories. You will probably go home and tell these stories to your loved ones. They will get bored of hearing you talk about dead people you don’t really know. It is just a hazard of the job.

2a) Sometimes while developing these relationships, you will pick up on a thread in their papers and really want to know the outcome. A lot of the time, that information is lost to history and you just have to deal with it.

3) You will likely end up with an abundance of self-taught, pseudo-IT knowledge.
A huge portion of records today are born digital (created digitally, no paper) and this number grows every single day. To be competitive, archivists must understand how to work with digital documents in an ever-changing technological world. You will probably take many online classes and do lots of reading. Make friends with an IT professional . . . fast! I spend probably 40% of my time dealing with aspects of our digital collections (and it is only a small portion of my job!). I now know my way around a CSS stylesheet – that isn’t something you learn in public history graduate school!

4) Paper is heavy.
Seriously, those boxes are like great big rocks. Watch out for interns and graduate students who see you toss them around and don’t realize the weight – save their toes (and your hard work)!

5) You will get dirty.
Erase those images of the sharply dressed archivist wearing white gloves handling a document over a clean, white table. Replace it with an image of the old-jeans wearing archivist crawling around in the hay loft of a barn rescuing long-deserted family or business records. Replace it with an image of the archivist smelling documents and books to see if they detect mold, freezing boxes to kill the infesting bugs, covered in red rot from the leather of old ledger books. . . you get the point. Yes, you will get to spend some time doing the fancy part, but unless you do something extremely specialized, it will be outweighed by the rest.

6) You will have to explain what you do over and over again.
Turns out, archivist isn’t a well-known career outside of academia. Have your elevator speech ready; you will need it a lot. If I don’t want to get into a long discussion, I usually focus on the history side of my job. People tend not to have as many questions about that. And no, I am not a librarian. I like librarians, but I am not one.

7) Parents will expect you to do their kid’s homework.
This is not cool and I do not tolerate it. Extra-friendly and new archivists can get sucked in sometimes though. You will need to figure out fairly quickly where your job ends and their work begins. You may have a person you need to go the extra-mile for, but this should not mean taking on their assignments. Also – parents who do this . . . you suck. Big time. Don’t get an attitude with me and teach your kid to put some effort in.

8) You will tease people about erasing them from the historical record when they piss you off.
Ha. Yeah, I do this. Be nice to archivists, people; we control how most of you will be remembered.