Meet Quin DeLaRosa, the 2022 John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fellow
The Mudd Manuscript Library, a unit of Princeton University Library’s (PUL) Department of Special Collections, offers the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Archival Fellowship for one graduate student each year. This summer, Quin DeLaRosa filled the fellowship.
Can you tell us a bit about your background as it relates to libraries?
My interest in library work started with history, which is not surprising for archivists and librarians. From there I became more interested in the world of cultural heritage, starting with museums, but over time pivoting towards archives. I really appreciate the elements of providing access to cultural heritage and managing the records of those items.
I also enjoy the services side of librarianship. I’ll admit that at first my interest in cultural heritage was more self-centered in that I was just curious about things and wanted to interact with the materials of history. But over time it became more about what I could do for others to provide access and what that access means to communities. That change of perspective is what brought this from being an interest to something I could dedicate myself to as a profession.
What did you study as an undergraduate?
I hold a bachelor’s in history with minors in music and political science.
You worked with Kate Mitchell in Firestone Special Collections. Did you bond over your interest in music at all?
We spoke a little bit about that, although most of our bonding over the course of the summer was in relation to the project that we built together regarding reparative description. We gave a presentation to Library staff and are preparing to give a lightning talk at the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) in October.
Is there a certain segment of history or the archives that you’re drawn to?
I was always a bit of a generalist. Someone who wanted to work with everything and anything. That kind of attitude was good for curiosity, but not necessarily great for silo-ing myself into Ph.D. research or anything like that. Working with cultural heritage in any sense was a way for me to have a job experience in which I had the potential to learn something new every day.
For me, it’s more about what we can do with these things, than the things themselves. When I look at the items that we work with I’m often thinking from the perspective of an archivist, about the users and the communities that we serve, and how our work supports that. Even as I’m appreciating the materials themselves, it's now much more about the process than it is about the material.
Walk us through what you were working on at PUL.
Working here at Mudd, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to be exposed to a variety of different projects and functions that keep the archives running everyday. A lot of them have revolved around manuscripts processing, going through collections, and arranging and describing papers.
I’ve been introduced to some of the born-digital workflows for electronic records as well. I’ve also been working on the public services side, specifically sitting in the reading room and helping researchers find what they need. Additionally, there’s a research component of my work here. For the reparative archival description project that Kate Mitchell and I worked on, we wrote a paper on it, created and distributed a survey among the professional archival community, and developed a methodological model for assessing the social justice impact of reparative description in archival institutions.
Have there been any staff members you’ve been particularly fond of working with?
One of the really distinctive things about Mudd Library is that because it’s such a collaborative work environment I was able to work with a lot of people here, and had no trouble finding help when I needed it. I’m really grateful to everyone here.
I do want to give a bit of a shout out to my supervisor, Will Clements, who has been guiding me through all of these projects and has been a really consistent supporting presence through all this work. I’d also like to thank all the Technical Services and Public Services staff, who have been supporting me as well through this.
How does your past experience in archives compare to working at PUL? Were you able to bring any of your experience from past roles to your work at Mudd?
Every archive is a little bit different. This is owed to the particular user base that the archive serves, the structure of the institution in which the archives are embedded, as well as popular collecting areas and how these factors all interact with more situational ones.
Here at Mudd for instance, our main collecting areas are found in the Public Policy Papers and the University Archives. A lot of the work follows the ways in which that content is used and how it relates to Mudd being situated in a larger research university and environment. That draws some parallels to my work at Seton Hall University, as that was an academic archive, but it actually contrasts quite a bit with my other work.
When I was working with AFS Intercultural Programs that was for a much smaller, lone arranger, archival situation, within a much larger non-profit organization, and that was a very different type of user base and collections.
Were there any collections or items you came across that you were surprised to find or interested in?
Oh, absolutely! One of the things that I love so much about archives is that I never know what I’m going to find, and I have the potential to learn something new every single day I come to work here. There are always certain materials that you can find in cultural heritage institutions that possess that kind of aura to them that really stops you in your tracks.
One thing that comes to mind are the Samuel W. Lewis papers. This was a collection for a former ambassador to Israel. I ended up getting to process materials that included his personal, handwritten journals, which were a first-hand account of the Camp David Summit. That was a very impactful, very emotional, but also very intellectual work that I feel really captured a unique moment in world history. It was a really fascinating experience as the archivist in this situation to be able to have a role in passing this on and bringing this to other people.
What are your career aspirations?
To put it simply, I want to become an archivist. Following my fellowship here at Princeton, I have one more semester left in my graduate program at NYU. As I’m working towards the end of that I’m starting to look at job postings and I’m hoping that I can make the jump relatively soon to a more permanent position.
Archives, despite being embedded within institutions, exist in many different types, and they all contribute to different types of environments and different types of cultural value. I would say that I’m really interested in the academic environments and how archives within universities are able to straddle all these diverse user bases. That’s something that really appeals to me and I really appreciate the public orientation of that work.
Do you have any advice for future fellows or interns doing this type of work?
I would suggest bringing their passion into the work from day one. Once you’re here, you have a lot of opportunities within your grasp. You have people who are distinguished professionals in their careers who are here to help and collaborate with you. I would say to take advantage of that, it’s really worth it to show your initiative.
I, for instance, was speaking to my supervisor, Will, about a new plugin that we were getting ready to test for our content management system, ArchiveSpace. I asked him if I could be involved in that and help to test and write up some of the documentation for it. He said yes, and I got the chance to really test out the plugin and contribute my own work to develop potential new workflows. That’s something I wouldn't have had the chance to do unless I took a little bit of initiative myself.
Published October 3, 2022
Interview by Brandon Johnson, Communications Specialist
Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications