American Archives Month: Stacey Chandler, Kennedy Presidential Library
It’s been a great two weeks, but American Archives Month is coming to an end. We’re saying good-bye to the series with a stop at the hometown of the 2013 World Series Champions: Boston, MA.
Full name: Stacey Chandler
Occupation: Archives Technician for Textual Reference at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
How long have you worked at this library?
Five years total, including two years as an intern.
How/why did you decide to go into the archival field?
I interned in the archives at the Kennedy Library through graduate school, while trying to decide exactly what do to with my Public History degree. After two years working with the collections here, how could I choose to work in any other field?
What are some of your responsibilities at your library?
Mainly, I help researchers find and access documents on whatever they’re curious about in the life and times of John F. Kennedy. I also do tours and reference for the Ernest Hemingway collection, and keep on the lookout for preservation concerns, new books to add to the library, and chances to put cool documents in the spotlight.
What do you like best about your job?
The best part of my job is talking with all different kinds of people about history every day. The amazingly wide range of subjects people ask us about keeps my nerd senses finely tuned.
Tell us about a time something unusual or unexpected happened to you in your line of work.
I got to help researchers who were working on developing a Hemingway-inspired rum, which involved showing original Hemingway materials (including his war medals, flasks, compasses, bullfighting ticket stubs, etc) that represented his adventurous personality. I haven’t sampled the end result, but looking through Hemingway’s personal souvenirs made for a great day on the job.
Tell us something about your President that the average American might be surprised to learn.
I think a lot of Americans think about President Kennedy as a celebrity: cool, stylish, and glamorous. But archivists at the Kennedy Library know him as an introvert, and kind of a history and information geek. He had diverse intellectual interests and a mind like a sponge, able to absorb and process huge amounts of complex information very quickly. He could call up his knowledge at a moment’s notice and with incredible clarity and concision, which is why his off-the-cuff speeches, and especially his press conference responses, can still astound me when I watch them.
If your library were attacked by zombies and you could only save one record, what would it be?
If slow zombies approached, I’d take the time to save President Kennedy’s index card with his scribbled pronunciation of “Ich bin ein Berliner,” which he used during his famous speech in Berlin. I think it humanizes him. This President had such a sharp mind, but still wanted to use a little cheat sheet to deliver one of the most iconic statements of his Presidency. It also plays a part in one of my favorite improvised lines: “I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!”
In a sudden attack of fast zombies, I’d grab the enormous 1922 press copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses that was given to Hemingway. It would double as an effective zombie shield and endless reading material, which I’d obviously need after escaping into Boston Harbor on President Kennedy’s boat, Victura.