Meet Petrina Jackson, New Head of Special Collections and University Archives.

If you would have told me that when I graduated from Iowa State University in 1994 with my MA in English that I would return twenty-two years later, I would have never believed you. However this past April, that is exactly what I did. Much has happened during those years to prepare me for my homecoming to ISU.

After I graduated from ISU, I began my career as an English professor at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Illinois. During my time there, I learned a great deal about teaching, student success, and what makes good writing good. It was a positive experience overall, but with a five minimum course load per semester and endless papers to grade, I knew that I would not retire from that field. Seven years in, I decided to change careers and become an archivist. Becoming an archivist required going back to school, so sixteen years after I graduated from ISU, I earned my Master of Library and Information Science with a specialization in Archives and Records Management from the University of Pittsburgh.

The road to being an archivist has taken me to several incredible academic universities, including Cornell University’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in the Carl A. Kroch Library, where I served as a senior assistant archivist and made connections with students, alumni, and community members, teaching the importance of preserving their historical records and planning events to spotlight those records. From Cornell, I moved on to the University of Virginia (U.Va.) and served as head of instruction and outreach for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. At U.Va., I created an instruction program that increased the number of class sessions using special collections materials by 170%. After eight years at U.Va., I wanted the challenge of overseeing and growing an entire Special Collections’ program. When the opportunity arose to apply for ISU’s Head of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA), I went for it.

My goal at ISU is to make SCUA central to Iowa State’s curriculum. ISU is a student-centered research university, and part of the goal of the Library is to help prepare students to become strong researchers, which includes learning to do the deep detective work of navigating through primary sources to find the answers to their research questions. This type of work goes far beyond performing Google searches. It requires critical thinking, patience, and stamina to look for information in its rawest, unadulterated form. Acquainting and immersing undergraduate and graduate students to primary sources research through coming to SCUA with their classes, using primary sources in their course assignments, and researching for their own scholarly project in our reading room are ways to build and flex these skills. Our main goal is to make SCUA a vibrant place for the ISU community, Iowans, and all who seek further knowledge in our research areas, be it for a middle schooler’s history day project, a retiree’s family genealogy, an undergraduate’s class assignment, a graduate student’s thesis or dissertation, or a faculty member’s publication. So come over to Special Collections and University Archives and dig into our rich resources, or just stop by and say hi! We would love to meet you.

Photograph of Petrina Jackson by Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist, 6 September 2016.

Photograph of Petrina Jackson by Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist, 6 September 2016.

 

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