Jason Wood

Meet The Simmons Library Archivist

What did you study at Simmons and what's your current job title?

I graduated from SLIS in 2001 and received my Masters in Communications Management (MCM) in 2011. 

I've been a member of the Simmons Library staff for 14 years and am currently the College Archivist and Associate Director for Discovery Services in the College Library, a position I've held for three and a half years

What was your favorite part of your program(s)?

In both programs, it was that moment where theory and practice intersect. I can clearly recall the very session in my Records Management class taught by the late Kathryn Hammond Baker when suddenly the relevancy of business records to archival management became obvious and really kind of cool. Likewise, while in an MCM class led by Professor Marlene Fine, we applied leadership theories to our personal experiences and that was a wonderful exercise in mindfulness, and an exercise I still reflect on.

What made you interested in archives? 

I was an English major — concentrating in creative writing even — so as I grew tired of temp work and contemplating an MFA program, I started combing through my past experiences. I looked back on my work as a research assistant to a faculty member while an undergrad and thought, "well, that kind of digging and discovering wasn't so bad," so I applied to Simmons SLIS, thinking it would prove a fairly logical means to a fairly satisfying end. And it did, in fact. After several internships and part-time jobs, I started working in the Simmons College Archives about six months after I graduated. A job opening had come up, I applied for it, was fortunate enough to get the position, and have been here, in a variety of capacities, ever since. 

I do wish I had more dramatic stories to recount here, but, despite what they say, truth is often duller than fiction.

How can students utilize archives at Simmons?

The College Archives can be put to as many uses as a student can imagine. Each year, the Digital Libraries class in SLIS has digitized a scrapbook from our collection and developed a truly impressive digital surrogate. I have also done classes with upper-level undergraduate history students in which they explore — through primary sources in our collections —
particular areas of Simmons history that they find interesting. Students have looked at how particular clubs or programs developed, or looked into the history of birth control distribution on campus, or investigated some of the people, places, and things mentioned the Simmons Song Books of the 1930s. 

But it's those more universal moments — here today's students can see themselves, their course loads, their work-life balance issues, their Instagram and Twitter accounts, all paralleled in the photo albums and diary entries from a century ago — that are particularly rewarding.

And of course, each fall, students come to the Archives for information on the ghosts that are reported to haunt the Residence Campus (and whose presence I can neither confirm nor deny). 


Do you have any favorite Halloween traditions?

While I'm in no position to either confirm or deny any hauntings of Simmons (each year, it seems someone decides that some place on the Residence Campus is haunted), I can share a favorite Simmons tradition, perfectly suited for this time of year.

Various accounts in the 1920s describe the Ghost Walk and its many mysterious and dramatic happenings. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, this late night event was held as members of the Sophomore class — draped in sheets and chanting — gathered secretly to march through North and South Halls. They would encounter a battalion of Juniors when a great scuffle would ensue, complete with a tug of war and hair-pulling. The evening was capped off with a round of cider and doughnuts and the "burning of the most mysterious class secret."

Ghost Walk

What's a typical day like working in archives?

It's kind of a cliche at this point, but there really is no "typical" day in the Archives. I wear several hats in the Library, so I may be juggling any number of things: working on aspects of the Library budget, doing research on an alumnae/i of the College, managing an intern's processing or encoding projects, meeting with a donor, discussing catalog display issues with members of the Library staff, or negotiating with a digitization vendor. Sometimes I even sweep the floor in the Archives' workspace. The only constant is that I like to try to make the work environment a good place to be, both for myself and those around me.

Do you have a favorite preservation project?

I'm very pleased with some of the advances the Archives is making in providing enhanced access to some truly valuable Simmons publications. We have digitized our yearbook collection and are working to make our digitized back files of the student newspaper and course catalog available as well. These are great resources to understanding the Simmons of yesterday, today and even tomorrow.

What do you teach at Simmons?

I teach LIS456: Records Management, and have for the past five years or so. I teach both online and on-the-ground. One of the best parts of teaching this course is coming across those handful of students in each cohort who come to realize, over the course of the semester, a genuine interest in records management — the business process analyses and retention schedules and outreach programs — as it intersects with and informs archival management. In a field where many folks are most invested in working with manuscripts or "old things," I like to think I create a safe space for students to develop and cultivate a passion for IRS regulations, legal holds and how to deal with an onslaught of poorly named electronic files.

What's your Simmons moment?

On a macro-level, I maintain that Simmons College is at its best when it is engaged — first, foremost, and fully — as a community with a common, shared purpose. While its educational programs have evolved and changed with the times, reflecting market interests and student expectations, its core mission — in the words of founder John Simmons, "to enable the scholars to acquire an independent livelihood" — remains as resonant as it has for nearly 120 years. Such constancy is also constantly changing, which is particularly refreshing.

Specifically and most recently I think of a class of first-year students I presented to on the topic of "Social Changes at Simmons" in the Fall of 2015. I was reminded of how Simmons not only transforms the lives of those it touches but is also, as an institution, being transformed itself by those very same lives. That organic development — of a community growing and evolving while still remaining true to itself — stands out for me as part of what makes Simmons a most special place.

Photos supplied by Jason Wood from the College Archives.

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