I was nervous going into Orientation week in Chicago. I’ve been given this amazing opportunity as a Fellow of the Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC). What if I screw up? There was so much to think about. Do I have the right skills and experience? Will I find a job after graduation? Ah! I feel comfortable expressing these fears because I know I am not alone. This was the greatest lesson for me from that first week. Orientation helped me to realize not only that some of my peers shared my nervous energy, but also that we have resources to turn to for support.
The other Fellows in this group are all amazing women. Taken together, our collective life experiences and knowledge can do so much. We experienced this power when we collaborated on a dance company archive assessment for Thodos Dance Chicago. These surveys collect an immense amount of information and break it down into manageable parts with recommendations for creating or maintaining an effective archive of the company’s materials. If I had been responsible for tackling this assessment on my own, I might have run and jumped into Lake Michigan. Luckily, Imogen Smith and Amanda Wick guided us through the process and we collaborated to produce a clear and informative report.
For me, this fellowship represents an opportunity to connect and learn. Our leaders of Orientation, Imogen Smith and Amanda Wick, are a few steps ahead of us on the Dance Archivist/Librarian path. The efforts they made, in addition to efforts made by other members of the DHC, to answer our questions and provide us with insight on job searching and grant writing were extremely beneficial. I also had the singular experience of getting to know my bosses for the summer, Martha Briggs and Alison Hinderliter of the Newberry Library, before my work with them officially began. Orientation was held partially at the Newberry, and I took full advantage of my extra time to observe and soak up their wisdom. What I saw that first week filled me with excitement for the work I will be doing under their mentorship.
The DHC is a wonderful resource for dancers, dance companies, the general public, and students like me. The work they have done to illuminate hidden performing arts collections and connect dance collections with users is inspirational and will influence my work this summer. The work of an archivist need not be isolated – not when there are resources like the DHC reaching out and promoting awareness of dance history.
The time for me to take on the shared responsibility for preserving dance history is NOW and I am going to enjoy every minute of it!