The iSchool’s Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) degree prepares students for all sorts of wonderful careers, from records and asset management to archives and collections management to—Hollywood? Lauren Poleski-Schultz, MARA student, is ready to hit the big time, and archive her way through the silver screen.
West Side Story
Hollywood and San José are in the same state, but can sometimes feel as if they’re worlds apart. Poleski-Schultz, with a BA in Art and Art History, has always been interested in conservation and preservation work within the art community and enjoys exploring museum collections, but she didn’t quite know how to make the connection between what she loved to do in her spare time and what to pursue as a career.
“My husband worked at 20th Century Fox Studios, and every month they’d showcase different aspects of projects they’re working on,” Poleski-Schultz explains. “One was featuring their archives, showcasing the beautiful, lovely ladies of Fox. We got to see all these old photos you’d never see in books.” (Bonus fact: “The archives at 20th Century Fox are actually underground, in a basement,” Poleski-Schultz reveals. “It’s so cool!”)
Her interest sparked, Poleski-Schultz started exploring the world of archives, asking questions and taking notes. “Everyone in the archive community is so nice, and so giving,” she says, “and they love to show off their collections. As an archivist, you’re the keeper till the next generation comes along, and I thought that sounded like a really fun job.”
When the archivists she informally interviewed let her in on their secret (the graduate degree), Poleski-Schultz realized that the SJSU iSchool, in comparison to other LIS schools, was a great choice because it offers the MARA program—along with professional projects and fantastic archives and records–specific internships, many of which can be completed virtually. “You could have the traditional background in records management, but also do records and archival background,” she explains. “It’s just a great program.”
Following her own private yellow brick road, Poleski-Schultz stumbled upon an internship at Warner Bros. Studios, working in the animation archives. It was dream casting. While digitizing documents, “I got to work on the Flintstones,” she swoons. “Some of the original artwork. And they invited me back again!”
For her professional project, a required part of the MARA program where students work directly with a professional archivist or records manager, Poleski-Schultz created a set of finding aids for the Pasadena Public Library. The finding aid is an archivist’s tool, detailing the organization and contents of a specific collection so its contents will be easily searchable. Poleski-Shultz created finding aids for three collections: one that provides information on the history and architecture of Pasadena’s Central Library building, one for a collection of materials that give a historical overview of the library’s early years, and one for documentation of Pasadena’s One City, One Story annual book reading and discussion program. “It required working with the records manager at the library, doing a lot of research on format, making sure we decided on a format that worked for every single item in the collection,” Poleski-Schultz says. The completed aids are featured on the library’s website.
Poleski-Schultz notes that, after all the hard work, she made a great professional connection with the records manager at the library. So even after the internship ended, she stayed on as a volunteer to help out. “They do appreciate having volunteers,” she says. “When you’re working with other people, you start creating a natural relationship and it evolves from there.”
The Year of Living Dangerously—for Archives
As part of its 2015 program, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) is collecting stories highlighting the importance of archives. And Poleski-Schultz's got tales to tell.
“There’s a small museum in Pasadena, The Historical Society, and they have an amazing archive containing photos and other artifacts from the beginning of Pasadena,” she says. “Including photos of the Rose Parade, which is something that’s really iconic and associated with everyone’s life because you see it on TV every New Year. I think it’s so important in that perspective to keep the history going. It’s really symbolic to a lot of people, like projects that I worked on at Warner Bros., with cartoons that were a part of people’s childhood. It would be a travesty if some of these things were destroyed.
“As an archivist, your collection becomes a part of you, and you a part of it. And I feel that it’s our duty as humans to save our history. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years! Archiving is one of the oldest professions in the world.”
“I never thought I’d do this,” Poleski-Schultz admits of following the path of the archives. “I’ve honestly been afraid of technology. When I went to art school, I graduated and immediately felt behind the times because technology grows and changes so rapidly.” Poleski-Schultz says that taking Libr 240, a course on building websites, was like learning another language, but also key to helping her feel like she had a firm grasp on the technology used every day, in so many situations. “I feel so much more competent with technology after going through this program because we use it so regularly,” she says. “I feel ready.”
“I get excited in any archive, because I have such a passion for it,” says Poleski-Schultz. “I’m lucky enough that I found what I want to do in my life, and I get the opportunity to do it. I really owe a lot to San José State.”