#SpotlightSeries: Getting Involved
MARA Student Nick Zmijewski is appointed to ArchivesSpace board
Published: December 3, 2019 by Kenna Wulker
Getting involved in the professional archives and records organizations can be a great way to network, learn, and gain valuable experience. Organizations such as ARMA, SAA, AIIM, and others are great places to get started. Current MARA student Nick Zmijewski did just that and was recently appointed to the board of ArchivesSpace as the vice chair of governance board! Read through this interview to learn about Nick’s experience.
Congratulations on your appointment to the board of ArchivesSpace! Let’s discuss your background. I read that you were a history major for your undergrad. How did you get from history to archives & records administration? How did you get into the archiving world?
My broad association with archival materials goes back to my childhood. My father is an amateur photographer and collector of some paper items. I grew up helping him with his collection (and working on my own as I began shooting prints and slides). I generally had a knack for it. I was also very good at history but also knew that teaching wouldn’t necessarily be a great fit for me. My adviser suggested the museum world as a good placement for me and another professor helped arrange an internship at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in the summer of 2006. There, I worked in a number of departments, but primarily the archives. At the same time, I worked for my college newspaper and one of my tasks was to scan the negatives for publication. I was hired back at the museum as a guide for the following summer. At the time, they were awarded a grant to digitize several thousand negatives. Since I had experience in that, I was hired as a part-time grant employee and part-time tour guide for the duration of the grant. Having scanned almost four times the amount required by the grant I was hired on a permanent basis to handle photo orders, scan images, and work on reference questions. In 2009, there was a budget crisis and the state workers in the department were laid off. I moved into working in the archives almost full time and ran the department from then until I left at the end of 2016.
What do you like about archives and preservation?
I have always been a collector; I am a stuff guy. I enjoy working with the materials and finding things that interest me. Along with that, I also enjoy working with people who are passionate about the collections, be they volunteers, researchers, or donors. While I enjoy the materials, if no one is using them what is the purpose in having them? Coming into a new archive, we didn’t have a strong pool of donors or researchers, and I have been working very hard to build up those relationships.
Define governance. How does governance affect our profession? What are we doing well (as a whole) and what do you think we could be doing better?
Governance provides the framework and structure that everything else we do fits in. As I am coming to the end of my first term on the Board of Governors, I have enjoyed advocating for colleagues and playing a role in guiding the program. It is a much more of a corporate management mindset than running my department, which makes for a nice change of pace. I think we, as a profession, tend to get caught up in governance, which can hamper our ability to be reactive to changing conditions. It also shows me that we need to be better advocates for ourselves and make sure we have a seat at the table wherever leadership rests.
Do you think MARA has aided you in any way in becoming part of the leadership board for ArchivesSpace?
While I am still relatively early into the MARA program (being part time and having taken a semester off for the birth of the twins), I feel as though the MARA courses have helped me understand the experiences of my colleagues who work in academia, corporate archives, and records management settings. I never worked in these settings (though it seems as though this is where the vast majority of jobs lay) and I feel as though the courses I have taken so far have presented material that opened up my understanding of these other career paths.
What are your plans for ArchivesSpace as vice chair of the Governance Board?
The position is a three-year one that cycles from vice chair to chair and then to past chair. Over the course of these three positions I would like to work to broaden the strong sense of community that ArchivesSpace has, allocate resources to improve accessibility, and continue to work toward ensuring the long-term viability of the program.
What advice would you give others trying to get involved in the records/archives world?
I know I have said this in a number of discussion posts in various courses, but I love working in smaller institutions. The amount and variety of experiences I have gotten is incredible. Positions aren’t always the easiest to come by, so keep your skills up and build your resume by volunteering, if you can. Dealing with the public and donors can be tough, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. In a small institution you are often the public face. Materials and funding can come in because of people like you. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, either. I was a strong advocate for the Railroad Museum to do a craft beer festival, which quickly became one of their biggest fundraisers of the year. Volunteers are also your best asset. These people want to be there, so finding tasks that they can excel at and enjoy has always been a top priority because a strong volunteer corps can get way more work done than one trained archivist (and it is often the repetitive, grinding type of work). Finally, if possible, work with professional organizations in your area. I have benefited (and so has my organization) tremendously from my associations and positions within the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) and ArchivesSpace. As a young professional, I wish I had joined as soon as I firmly established my career path.
About Nick Zmijewski
Nick Zmijewski is a current MARA student residing in Lancaster, PA with his wife and one-year-old twins, Logan and Zoe. He grew up in Cranford, NJ, with a love for photography and history. He majored in history at Wilkes University where his summer volunteering experience at the Railroad Museum piqued his interest. As the archivist and first professional staff at the Industrial Archives and Library, Nick works to build their collection for the ground up. In his free time, Nick can be found along the railroad line, at a steel mill or coal mine, or watching Doctor Who.