Gwyn Hervochon and Julia Stringfellow

Recorded August 21, 2015 Archived August 21, 2015 34:18 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddb001921


Gwyn and Julia (43) talk about how they became archivists, their first jobs in the field, and where they currently are professionally.

Subject Log / Time Code

GH tells about graduating from graduate school in New York and becoming an intern at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
GH was a waitress and actress in NYC before she decided to become an archivist.
JS got her first after graduate school working on a Southeast Asian migration project in Irving, CA.
GH talks about moving to Boise, Idaho to work as a manuscript archivist and librarian.
GH on how as an archivist everyday is a surprise and how she has been taken many places in her career.


  • Gwyn Hervochon
  • Julia Stringfellow

Recording Location

Cleveland Convention Center

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:01 Okay. I am Julius Stringfellow. I am 37 years old today is August 21st, 2015. We were in Cleveland, Ohio and my relationship to the other speaker is friend and former colleague in my name is Gwyn hervochon. I am 43 years old today is August 21st, 2015. We are in Cleveland, Ohio and my relationship to my storytelling interview partner is a friend and former co-worker.

00:41 So here we are in Cleveland and we are archivists. Yes at the Society of American archivists Conference and I was able to attend this because I'm presenting a my University really like that. So they agreed to fund my trip. So I was very appreciative of right is your first time presenting at is there an essay and I thought I would feel differently like Yay. I'm presenting since I have a cold and I'm on cold medicine and my hotel had very weak coffee for breakfast on like okay, but you're going to be fabulous awesome presenter. I've seen her do it several times. She's a pro. Well, thank you true. So, what do you think of Cleveland Gwen has used to live here, and I'm so happy to be back.

01:41 It's really exciting especially and it does fit in well with my own personal Journey as an archivist because it's a little bit of a homecoming and full circle. This was the I came to Cleveland right after I finished grad school. I finished my Master's in library and information science at Long Island University. And how much did you actually go to the campus in Long Island zero times during my career at Long Island University because all of my classes were in Manhattan, so I got to take all of my classes on the campus of New York University. Yeah, and when I finished grad school, I packed up and headed pretty much straight for Cleveland. So that was the first place I went right after I finished grad school to do an internship.

02:41 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame library and Archives of a dream opportunity internship. It wasn't even open to the public yet. It was just in its foundational. So it was so exciting to come here and be a part of that foundation and setting up. Incredible incredible networking with really amazing collection. So that was a very first thing I did write a grad-school. It was an internship it with unpaid I still funded but worth it. I never been to Cleveland before and and what month did you move here? It was was July and it was really a profound time. It was like I had no idea what was coming next. I had no idea. I didn't know I have no job lined up cuz

03:41 I had never really worked professionally in an archives before right and so, you know, I did my internship here and then when how long is your internship is just about eight weeks and while you were doing your internship for you applying for jobs and trying to take her for a couple of jobs did not pan out. But but I went from there and eventually found my way. Yeah, I feel really like it's really feels like a triumphant return to come back now and tenure track faculty position Boise State University and then no check with a few incredible experiences in between. I feel like I really lucked out I really feel so lucky to be an archivist and has do what you like. Yeah. Yeah, but enough about me let's oyez.

04:41 Your journey as an archivist know, how did you start but it is interesting because when I was 23, I was working with my year between college and graduate school. Okay, I'm going to add decided when I got done with college that I was done with Academia. Just wanted to get a regular job for months later. I realized no I need to go to graduate school Academia. Is this for me nice. So so I applied to University of wisconsin-milwaukee because they had a dual master's degree program in library science and history and history was really my love because I had a bachelor's degree in music. I wanted a degree where I can actually get a job doing it. So I decided to the two degrees and felt like if I drink I couldn't find anything in history that I could fall back on my library science degree. You have not even thought about being an archivist even occurred to me. And so I apply for the for the program and then in February I had a friend and

05:41 Arkansas I was living in Arkansas the time OK wanted to move to Albany because that's where her family lived and she wanted to get out of Arkansas. Okay, so we started this road trip from Little Rock and Ashley went up to Niagara Falls and then came back to Albany but we drove through Ohio on the way. I can remember if he came to Cleveland or not, but I was waiting to find out if I've been accepted to the program and Rodger I got back from that trip. I found out I'd been accepted. So yeah, so that was that was exciting and move to Milwaukee in May and it was a huge culture shock going from the south to the Midwest and people are so different and you know, it's it was just so different and I lived in the third-floor studio where there is no AC so I had to be very creative about ways to stay cool Summers on record for Milwaukee. Yes, so I rode the bus a lot because

06:41 Was free and air-conditioned

06:47 Graduate school, it's all about the free stuff. And then in August. I applied for an internship in the archives and just started doing that. And I remember my first day. I was sleeping photographs and I thought wow, this is such a great thing because you're in this cool place surrounded by history and going to library that it always seemed to me to be like a Haven of knowledge and people, you know are a civil to each other and not yelling and but I really like this as though because up until that point you were saying though that you hadn't really thought about know I have got about it. No, I thought about trying to find a job with my masters in history once I got done but then I found out about archives and got into it and took a few classes and really loved it. So I don't like I'm sleeping photos. Keep doing pretty cool. I can handle this. Yeah brain surgery.

07:47 Seriously, how did that click for you? Do you feel like I just I just felt like it was a very comfortable fit. I felt like I was home. I did a reference descolada and and my supervisor commented that I had very good customer service skills, which isn't always something you find an archived students. Usually they just want to be with the materials and not dealing with the public and I enjoyed dealing with the public and one very funny story was that

08:23 Let's see. What is the Jewish? What is what is their name? Not a priest but a rabbi Rabbi Rabbi came in one day wanting to look or maybe it was a priest. Anyways, one of them came in and wanted to come in one day and look at a circumcision records and I thought they were joking and I'm like, hahaha. We don't have that. You're funny. We actually did because we were a county archives and we kept birth and death records and circumcision records apparently and they were very nice about it. And then we had the regular patrons who would come in and be like you how you doing and we know what you want to look at it. So it's just a very comfortable fit and I understood why these people were so passionate about their research. I got that so it just seemed like a good fit for me. So

09:12 Right. So yeah, did you feel like that when you were doing your internship? Yeah. Yeah. Oh my gosh. I definitely need my internship didn't really involved working with a public because it wasn't open yet to the public, but I had a lot of experience in customer service. So I did feel like I had that going for him as an archivist make and I've always wanted as much as yeah. I realize that there's a lot of loan arranger time. Yeah, but I always knew that I wanted working with people to be a part of my job as well that that's part of what I love about being an archivist and want to eat at I want to share these materials with people and make it relevant. Yeah to the appropriate audiences, but given, you know, depending on whatever the collection is and making butter.

10:10 Wait, what was the question whether I just want to know if I ever felt like that. Yeah, I was saying that I definitely had moments of things clicking. Yeah, I'm being like Oh, yeah. I'm doing the right thing Rica. Absolutely, especially at the Rock Hall and coming across.

10:34 I process the collection of a rock journalist night who wrote for Rolling Stone Island light is his name then he was super into hip-hop to actually but I don't know. I just coming across like these interviews with people and and a lot of my friends are in music. So it's going to be a friend's name sometimes to you, but just the actual to work of it. It was like, yeah.

11:08 I've done a good thing because this is a late career change for me. Really?

11:15 Cuz you were full of more Leisure address and I lived in Brooklyn New York City and I

11:33 Yeah, so it was kind of scary at first like to make that investment in grad school without really knowing but I had a feeling that you know, I really thought long and hard about what was going to be next because I really didn't want my only career options to be.

11:55 Waitressing right and acting specifically my thing was Shakespeare in performance Insurance some basic heuerman planned. But yeah, I knew that there was something about if there was a connection to history and retelling and I love doing the research about it characters and and playwrights in the world of the play and context context context. You informed a character in a life of a person and there's just a through line with right parking with archival materials. They stare like people stories these are and I feel like I've been a big buzz word hear stories for storytelling. What do you think? Is it real? Is it a fad? Is there something to it permanent? I mean

12:55 Record has been around for 10 years and then we still going strong and bright.

13:06 Y8 out storytelling is more than a fad I mean yeah, how can it be? I don't know I know a lot of our colleagues here have varying opinions about guys and storytelling and if it's

13:21 But it's just a buzzword right now. That sounds good. But that's what they're calling it now, but I mean it's gone through several.

13:28 Different name changes if you will and I look at storytelling is advocacy for archives like oh, okay, you know you're doing this interview and it's going to be in the archives. What does that mean? It means it's going to be safe permanently. And if you grant permission anyone can come in and listen to this and it's a representation of this moment in time that this person's history and I think that's very powerful and I think it's a very strong form of advocacy someone in the session yesterday that the archives of Storytelling that shouldn't you know said very simply like we are storytelling animals. I think that's true. Yeah, right. Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.

14:24 I mean, okay. I just don't think it's some people seem to think that is a dumbing down that were saying like archives is storytime and storytime at storytelling about making it connecting making something relevant right to making so much personal experience might relate to the broader picture of the larger picture and I feel like right we had so many opportunities to do that as archivist. Yes, I think about instruction that I've done with students and you know that you show them a piece of paper or this is a letter blah blah blah and they're like, okay, that's cool that you show them like a video of musicians performing music that was created a century ago or you know, you show them or you play like an audio recording of a performance or an interview that was done long ago. And that seems to have more of a profound effect on them like the same.

15:24 Make them feel like a greater connection to this person whose voice their hearing or whose performance there watching so

15:34 That's just my opinion that we talked about her internships. Yeah, we talked about like our first job out of graduate school before expected to remain because we are probably all about her but project archivist true. Well, I was temporary. Okay, I wasn't a temporary position and I was it was in November and I was graduating in a month and I was applying for jobs and I'm thinking oh, I've got to find something cuz I did all of this on student loans and I'm broke and I saw there was his job in Irvine, California that was originally for 9 months. So I'm like, yeah, I could do that after living in Milwaukee. It would be nice to go live on the beach and you know, that'd be great for our first gig out of graduate school.

16:23 And I'm apply for this job and did a phone interview and lo and behold Irvine was where Bill Landis were to was instrumental in getting back started and it was rejected daily work to get very involved who is very involved in SAA is so going there and working with those two and finding out, you know, you get you need to get involved at the state and at the at the national level and oh, yeah, you're going to SAA. You don't have a choice and NSAA. My first year in Irvine was in LA I know is that this really ritzy hotel that gave us a great conference, right? But anyways my job as a ratio of it was so nice, but then they found out they had received another Grant it so I ended up staying two and a half years and so it was really great because I was working with collections that documented the Southeast Asian American community in Orange County.

17:23 So I got to learn to read a little bit of Vietnamese in order to process correspondingly add process it chronologically alert some other Vietnamese words to know what what they were talking about and it was just something I had never experienced. Yes and living in Orange county is an experience in itself. So he know Orange County. It's a nice place to visit but don't ever live there. Okay? Yeah. That was my first thought was my project, Oregon I did. Yeah cuz

18:03 You know picking up towards the end of that my experience at the Rock Hall library and archives cuz yes, I was applying for jobs and nothing happened, but eventually something did happen between and I kind of had an idea that I wanted to be to end up in the Pacific Northwest was like do I go there and try and find a job do I just try and find a job and then go there I eat comes first. Like I don't really know any of your friends live in Seattle with my dearest friends from college lives in Seattle and I had an open invitation to stay with her indefinitely nice. It was so but I but even I was visiting my family in Maine and so I was in main Spar East as you can get on the coast of Maine ass when I see on I think the essay was served an announcement for an internship at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

19:03 I think it was called an apprenticeship technically and you know, as I said, my background is in theater and specifically in Shakespeare performance. I've just graduated with my Master's and want to go into archives. And so I see this announcement for the apprenticeship and figure to be me. Yeah, you're good. Yeah so that you know, and it's in Ashland Oregon and so that I can go almost but you know, well, I'm going to go there and I'm going to get that get on the plane if you have to hire me to Seattle and stayed with my friend, right but that was much closer to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival then sitting in Maine do I physically went there and then I contacted the

20:03 Best at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and said I'm going to be in town seeing some place and we'll be applying for this internship. So hopefully it can I come by when we are to make a time and TV archives and ask you some questions and and she responded that absolutely so that's what I did and then she contacted me and said she would give me a phone interview about a week after that and did the phone interview and then yeah, I got it. I know that meeting me in person helped. Yes. Absolutely. Can I hear ya? Ya know I really do feel like I kind of flew across the country and went there and got the position and that started at you knowing without is so interesting because you know, I knew I wanted to keep my job in library science, whichever direction that took me in Hawaii archives were booked something you that I wanted to keep it as connected to my back.

21:03 Found in the theater and Shakespeare as much as possible. But you know that seems like sort of a tall order you can't but ya having that goal in mind in that very specific background, but I had really help me get my foot in the door as an archivist right funny enough, but and from there it was perfect timing because I was there as part of an hprc Grant and there was someone else he was a project archivist hired through that same grass funding and somebody else left the full-time archivist/librarian. It just worked out that

21:56 We were all able to start a shift up and then I moved into a project archivist position after 4 months as an intern. I was supposed to be there 6 months. I ended up getting there almost three years. Yeah, and I helped write another huge Grant. That was to keep me there even a little bit longer. We got an nth Grant to digitize audio-visual collection, which was one of the

22:20 Proudest accomplishments you like short career so far.

22:27 $10,000 and they sent the check directly to you right now. I was made out to Quinn maybe digitize a couple things and I don't know how it really incredible experience and I but it was all temporary, you know, all of these positions were grant-funded and it was a little it was tenuous and I saw a posting in Chile for my position that I have now at way to State University for a manuscript archivist/librarian. Yeah, and I loved being out west Yeah a different from everything else. I had experienced being in northeastern are but I loved being out west and I figured I'd like to stay and the position itself just seemed my Neo and they could give me opportunities to do.

23:27 Buy variety of things like the process but also work with people and teach and do things that you enjoy. Yeah, and and also to try my hand at Academia. Yeah, you know, which I still hadn't gotten too and I knew that was where a lot of opportunities were there are going to be in so that I should start trying to

23:51 Work in that direction and I

23:56 So and I remember the summer that we were hiring for your positions, right? Cuz of course you would have that summer 2013. We had had like a couple of people interview more like oh God. No, they would never work and you know, maybe maybe Gwen hasn't found a job already and maybe we can get her to come out here. And when you interviewed it was like one of the hottest days of the summer is it was and I'm co-worker Jim and I were like taking around in the back stacks for an interview and all the sudden the fire alarm goes off for like, oh my god, really? Really really I just remember you were such a trooper bug, you know, we're going to go outside for a little bit and all these Library people were coming up and talking to you. I like, you know, this is great and so geminar like oh, yeah. She's the one she can handle this and go with her Laurel than she is the one so we were just joking or being like wow, you guys are really giving me the full experience very impressive.

24:56 Exactly. So so it was nice that we were able to get you and and everything. And so yeah. Yeah, I feel pretty lucky.

25:09 What about I mean, do you have moments certain things that stand out that your most that like are highlights of your time as an archivist or moment or two things are even on a daily basis. You know that you that make you want to keep doing what you are doing and not really but whatever but I remember my family and I were driving from Arkansas to Milwaukee or I was going to be living and I remember being in the car with my mom or crossing the state line from Arkansas to Missouri and my mom's like are you feeling sad and I said no.

25:52 I said no. I know I'm doing the right thing. I'm ready to go and I didn't say this out loud, but I knew that I would never come back and live. I knew that I was I granted ever go back to Arkham. Yeah, I had that I was done and I wanted to go on and experience other things and and I'm in so I feel like doing that with his play. One of the things I'm the most proud about I had the guts to get out of Arkansas comfort zone and go live someplace else and try new things. And so yeah, I think one of the things that is always like a pleasant surprise is just how happy people are coming use the archives and use the research materials and they and they get so excited about it and that excitement contagious at my current job at Central Washington Road Olive one month. We had to Chinese students coming who were visiting and they wanted to see the archives and so my colleague and I were showing them around and for some reason we have these gif

26:53 Like these boxes and other items I have Chinese on them and we're not sure why the archives acquired though, but these two sons were looking at them and they were so excited. They're like, oh that one item there. You have it upside down and I know thank you so much for telling us that's how you know, we're opening the case and turning it right side up, but we don't have a very big dark eyes if they were there maybe 45 minutes just looking at the old building photos and the aerial photo and goal and they were just so excited. And so it's it's really cool rated will share your excitement of his ring. What about you that it made me think about this whole thing where you know, where we do have constantly have to Advocate ER cells and and and constantly explain what we do and how that's like can sometimes feel exhausting and sometimes it's just like I'm a librarian

27:53 So kind of amazing because of the same time we get to tell people about what we do and and you know, I don't know if I introduce them to something that they didn't even realize that really existed. Like that was a job that are people now. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. I know that there are doctors and and and that's amazing, but it's kind of great to have a job where you like get to

28:30 Blow people's minds a little bit every time when they realize like, oh that's a thing and you have that kind of stuff to make a special or do I have to wear white gloves when I talk to that piece of paper? No sew no tollways it's funny because my patience of a archivist are in like one time. I was telling someone I did and they thought I'd said, I'm an arsonist and look at me like, oh my goodness. I need to get away from her.

29:05 Last night at the rock all the people who were bartending

29:11 This group of you. You're you're you're Alchemist.

29:15 How can I sell that's a yes and I've heard him exactly what I've said. I'm an anarchist and and and one person said oh, yeah, you're like Indiana Jones. I like to think so exactly but in my mind we are but yeah, that is kind of a great that I don't know. It's it is

29:48 Yeah trying to do something that yeah.

29:54 I don't know cuz he been in that something that I felt similar to really when I was an actor. I don't know cuz Shakespeare people think of certain thing. Yes, and I like I don't know. I kind of like doing Shakespeare not so traditionally and in a really exploring like the language and you know, I feel like there's a lot of room for presenting these works that are 400 years old in all kinds of ways in any knowing people when you say archives, they might have a certain thing and like the dusty archives or so. It's always great to I just feel like

30:35 You're expanding. Yeah, but you know what people's preconceived ideas are about something being stuffy and boring and it's like no actually Shakespeare an archive. Neither one is stuffy and boring or really love the people and people say about it. It's sleek, and I'm just like

31:05 Grounded and Rio and yeah relates to today's time and Lisa individual that you're speaking to.

31:16 Do we have a good final closing question that we both can answer?

31:27 What is surprised you the most about being an archivist like something that you never expected as you were going through and getting your your degree and thinking this is what I'm going to do and certainly didn't think I'd be sitting Cleveland 5 years later talking about being an argument, right so many places. I never thought I would give him for so truly.

31:56 Cleveland not on my radar Boise, Idaho. And I are so glad so glad I'm late for the collections that I'm working with just learning so much more myself about these places in the country that I would never know and like learning about the people and that I know who live there now who have lived there in the past and what their history so it's like that's the thing about it. One of the things that I lived what you know, it is full of surprises like on a daily basis. Yeah. Sometimes you need to learn Vietnamese, right? Exactly. Exactly. Yes. So it's it is that you just have to be you know, just flexible and ready for anything like like it took me a few years to learn those but you know, I come into work in the morning. I think I'm going to accomplish this and this and this and that never happens. There's always surprises. I mean, you never know who's going to walk through the door and

32:55 They're going to be there and you'll have to go with the flow. So that's been something that's been a nice surprise. So I think it's been full of nice surprises like a five-year career so far, you know, I still feel like I'm just getting started and sometimes you know how I really am an octopus. I can't believe it. Yeah, but yeah, it's full of surprise. It is full and it's constantly are constantly learning and like trying to decide what to do with electronic records and all of that.

33:32 Yeah, so I don't know. I found last statement Julia. Wow.

33:43 I would just say that you know, this is storycorps. So important in documenting American history and I think these interviews are going to be. This particular interview. Maybe the interview that are at the Library of Congress. I mean, I think people are going to be listening to them a hundred years from now and we know learning about what life is like in the year 2015

34:09 Irving it is pretty amazing. So very good idea story course.