#SpotlightSeries: MARA Alumna, Junia Yasenov
Published: January 6, 2020 by McKenna Wulker
Are you thinking about what happens after graduation? What kind of job you should or could get? There are so many opportunities, where do you start?! Read on to learn about Junia Yasenov, a former MARA student, and her journey post graduation, finding work at the Capuchin Archives in Detroit, Michigan.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. When did you enter the records/archives world? What made you join MARA and why? Please describe your current role at Calvary Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order.
I entered the archives world in August 2015 when I volunteered at the Archives of Michigan and Michigan State University Archives. I had enrolled in the MARA program, but could not start classes until January 2016. Therefore, I started volunteering before I started classes. After a couple months, the Archives of Michigan asked me if I would like to be on staff.
Having worked for the Archives of Michigan from August 2015 until September 2018, I started in October 2018 working for The Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order in Detroit, Michigan, as their Provincial Archivist. Provincial means I am the director of archives for 4 states: Montana, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. I report to the CEO, who is referred to as The Provincial.
I manage a small staff that assist me in organizing the archival materials. I have organized the reference room into over 60 sections for 1813 books and 43 periodicals. I have organized the archival vault into 14 sections for audio-visual, blueprints, artifacts, relics, and paper-based archival materials. I established archival software to be used and entered all the metadata myself.
In creating museum exhibits for our Solanus Casey Center Museum, I write the text and order signage while providing the artifacts to display. I am part of the team to renovate the museum where I work with architects to produce a graphic rendition of the new museum site.
In addition, I assigned record group numbers for the 137 collections in the vault and created digital finding aids for each by typing in each folder title/object name in each box. Also, I wrapped artifacts and numbered them according to the object number I assigned to each in the finding aid.
If you started your current job after graduating, how do you feel MARA prepared you for the position?
I feel the MARA program was integral to my job as an archivist. I felt well-prepared for anything in the archives field. I felt I had experience in many different aspects of being an archivist even before taking on my new role as Provincial Archivist because of the heavy research I had done for the many papers I had written. During my time in school, I thought the papers were so challenging to write, but once I started my job, I was so grateful for all the hard work I did.
For instance, I am conducting the renovation of our current vault. I am picking out the gaseous clean agent fire suppression system, having one fire coded wall installed, adding a metal door with key fob entrance, having the false ceiling removed, and having the current windows blocked out with cinder block. In addition, a new heating and air ventilation system will be installed to keep the temperature between 60-65˚ degrees and humidity between 35-45%. I learned how to build an archival vault from my classes at SJSU in the MARA program.
What was the state of the archives when you started? Were you surprised?
The archive was much like a storage unit when I arrived. Collections were piled up everywhere including on the floors. I would open a box and find materials that are completely unrelated to each other including many non-archival items like landscaping equipment. I was not surprised because I had seen the state of the archives in my interview.
What software do you use? Which has been the most helpful (if more than one is used)?
I use the AdLib software by Axiell. I am fortunate to have the Designer package, so I can manipulate fields such as adding new fields or changing how current fields appear. In addition to creating new fields and where they appear, I have changed the sequence that the objects will show up in the collection. For instance, in the basic software, the objects show up in the order they were entered. Now, I changed it to where the objects show up for a record group in sequence of box number and folder/object number within that box. This way, the boxes will be in order and everything in the boxes are also in order.
Also, I can pull data from AdLib using a Word template to create a digital finding aids for each collection. I actually pull the data in two different templates and then merge the information to create each finding aid. I have done this for 137 collections. I utilized the knowledge base I gleaned from the MARA program to put my archival materials in order in a digital format so it is easily searchable.
In addition, I take pictures of artifacts, paintings, and relics and upload them into AdLib. This way we have a picture to identify an item in addition to its description.
Since organizing the archives, have you seen an increase in usage? I know your archives are private, but are they used more by any internal people?
Yes, I am happy to report that I have had over 120 patron reference requests since my starting in October 2018. The numbers were quite small in the beginning, which was ok because I had so much organizing to do. I kept encouraging people to utilize this resource that I was here to serve them. It took a while, but now the organization uses the archives regularly. I love my job, so I encourage them to come back anytime to research.
The archive is used primarily by people within the organization. A lot of my reference requests come via email or phone. Most patrons never come into my archive as it is not a public area. I have friars come in to visit, but the public only come by making an appointment with me. I am happy to accommodate them and have many thank you letters from patrons, who were pleased with the service I provide for the province.
How did you discover the potential bones of St. Timothy? Were they actual bones/relics? What now?
The reliquary that houses the bones of St. Timothy were on the floor of the vault covered up by lots of stuff. I am sure no one had seen this reliquary in years. I had 2 forensic pathologists come in to evaluate the bones to see if they are of human origin. I had them sign a notarized statement stating that these bones were, in fact, human. Then I sent some of the bone fragments to a lab to be carbon dated. The bones were not able to be dated because nuns in 1926 had cleaned them and attached linen around the bones with and adhesive. This procedure, although done with the best of intentions, rendered the bones unusable for carbon dating.
I had researched the bones in relation to where they came from. The reliquary was made in Austria and given to the Province in 1926 from Rev. Louis Wegman, who was a Saint Relic Authority at the time. The bones were authenticated in 1926 as having been the bones of St. Timothy, who died in Rome in 311 because he refused to sacrifice to idols. This is a different St. Timothy than the one in the Bible obviously, but the name Timothy was popular and this gentleman was a martyr for his faith. We keep his legacy alive by displaying his bones here in the archives in Detroit. The reliquary sits across from my desk.
You have quite a list of future goals for the repository, how do you prioritize what to do next?
I start with the items patrons will request first. Family of deceased friars will frequently request information about their relative who was a friar with us. Therefore, I want to get these files in the AdLib software first. I plan to import the 526 friar files I have on an old Access database into the AdLib software and then enter in the hundreds of new friar files.
After this, I plan to import 662 patrimony records from another Access database into AdLib software because friars frequently request information about a particular object (although not as often as deceased friar files).
Then, I will visit the other states to document the patrimony (paintings, statuary, relics, etc) for each location to add to the AdLib software, so I will have everything in the software and searchable.
What advice would you give to a MARA student starting out?
I would say to get started in the real world of archives right away by volunteering for a local archive. The experience is so valuable because you can ask the archivists you work with about how they conduct archival procedures that you are studying in the MARA program. In addition, I had interviewed many of my co-worker archivists for papers I wrote. Sometimes I would record them and use the audio file as part of my paper for class. Being hands on at the same time as being in class was a great way to feel well-rounded and ready for your first real archivist job.
Also, I asked the archivists I worked with for recommendation letters and to be a reference for me when I was looking for my first real archives job. It is great to have actual archivists, who are willing to put in a good work for you when you are job hunting. An archival opening can get hundreds of applicants, so if you can be recommended by someone the hiring archivist knows – that will help you get an interview.
In addition, some people easily get hired in at the organization they volunteer for, because the archivists already know you and the quality of your work. Therefore, it is good to volunteer even if it is just 2-3 hours per week. I know it is hard when you are already in class and working a paying job, but the benefits are worth it.
Anything else…. I would say I love my job. For me, being an archivist is an adventure that I get paid to do. When you love what you do, it isn’t really work – it is just what you do.
I would encourage students to envision their dream archivist job and do everything in their power to make that happen by volunteering, getting good grades, and networking with other archivists in their desired field. If you set clear goals and have a solid plan, your dream really can come true. Mine did, and I am no different than anyone else.
My favorite quote that I have at my desk states: “Successful people are not gifted; they just work hard, then succeed on purpose.”
Thank you, Junia!
To learn more, join us February 4, 2020 at 1:00pm PST for our spring webinar! There, Junia will be presenting further on her work at the Capuchin Archives and bringing order to what she inherited.