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Preserving History: Keegan Smith-Nichols ’17 at the Peace Resource Center of Wilmington College

My third co-op finds me at the Peace Resource Center of Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio. I am an intern working in the archive, which houses the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial Collection and the Barbara Reynolds Papers.

I carpool to Wilmington three days a week with my boss, Tanya Maus, and we normally listen to murder mystery audio books. Currently, we are working our way through Henning Mankell’s Sidetracked, a Kurt Wallander mystery. This is the first job I have ever had that has a serious commute as well as involves me sitting down at a desk or computer for a good portion of my working time.

During my co-op, I have been focusing on three major projects: applying for a grant to preserve a collection of historic 16mm films, organizing the information available about the archive, and writing an independent scholarly research article to eventually be submitted to an academic journal. Each of these projects has been exciting and challenging in their own way, and I am enormously thankful that I have had the opportunity to learn about them on this co-op.

I have always loved the process of organizing things, so working in a setting that requires me to organize information and objects is satisfying. During this co-op, I have learned a lot about the formal processes of the archival world and helped create a finding aid, a document which essentially tells researches what they can expect to find in a collection. Initially my co-op was a little overwhelming because there are a lot of acronyms thrown around in library and archival that I had to learn as well as a lot of jargon. Jargon is cool if you know how to use it and also seems to help people communicate more clearly about very specific subjects but can make a workplace inaccessible.

Grant writing also requires an incredible level of organization. In order to be attractive to a grant committee, a proposal needs to have a clear outline of what the project is, what the project’s budget looks like, how the money will be spent, and how likely it is that the project will archive its goal. I have conducted a survey of all the 16mm films held in storage to determine the level of decay in the films and figure out which films are in most immediate need of preservation. This project has really grown on me because I feel like I am taking part in an important part of history; the preservation of rare films that tell of radical peace activism and post-war anti-nuclear work.

Another of my projects is the independent research article. I have found that articles that eventually end up being published are different from papers written for class, so I’ve had a lot to learn in terms of the style, format, and organization of my article. It has also been exciting to be able to fully utilize the services of the archive in the PRC as well as the library staff at Wilmington College. I am working on an article about the Quaker Community of Monteverde in Costa Rica and am very excited about the progress I have made.

Having an office job has many exciting perks that I never imagined actually existed in a workplace, as my previous two co-ops were outdoors with varying degrees of ruggedness. Here at the PRC, we have a kitchen with a microwave and I can make tea any time of day because we have unlimited hot water. I hear that these are pretty standard in the American workplace, but I am still amazed when I get to work and brew a pot of tea.

In addition to working three days a week at the PRC, I work two days a week at the Antioch College farm, where I have worked part time since I began as a student at Antioch. In addition to being a source of modest income, it is a beautiful time of year to be outside and I enjoy the balance of indoor and outdoor work. Working on the farm while not being on an academic term is also quite refreshing, as I don’t worry during my farm shifts about all the homework I have to do, so I am better able to enjoy digging around in the dirt or herding chickens.

Finally, having a clear distinction between my living space and my workplace is a truly incredible thing. Coming from a co-op where I worked nearly 12 hour days and lived 300 meters down a snowy path from my workplace, I love being able to have a life outside of my work. I have started bowling again and have plenty of time to read for pleasure. Overall, this co-op has been a very enjoyable experience.

Written by

<p>Keegan Smith-Nichols is a fourth year student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He is a declared history major with a French language focus. Keegan’s four co-ops have allowed him to explore both his academic and non-academic interests, which include queer history, archives, aviation, and animal husbandry. His first co-op was at Moonshadow Farm in Yellow Springs, Ohio, which allowed him to work closely with goats, including assistance with goat birth, milking goats, and making cheese. His second co-op was at Nature’s Kennel in McMillan, Michigan, where he learned about living off the grid in winter at a sled dog kennel. His third co-op was at the Peace Resource Center in Wilmington, Ohio, an archive devoted to the Quaker testimony of peace. His fourth co-op was at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where he participated in a Great Lakes College Association grant to study financial access to higher education for immigrants to the United States. Additionally during this co-op, he researched how the advent of affordable commercial flights allowed Puerto Ricans to resettle in the mainland United States.  <br /><br />In addition to these co-ops, Keegan has worked on the Antioch Farm since 2013 and has managed the compost programme, the sheep, and the flower beds of the Antioch Farm. He has also been layout editor and editor-in-chief for the Antioch Record, the student newspaper, and has served as a  member of the Record Advisory Board since Spring 2015, including as chair for three terms.<br /><br />Selected Publications: <br /><em>The Road to Monteverde: Examining the Intersection of Intentional Community and Ecotourism</em><br />Presented at Grinnell College’s Peace and Conflict Studies Student Conference, March 2016<br />To be published in Grinnell College’s Peace and Conflict Studies Journal, 2016</p>

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