As part of DVAG’s recent attempts to archive itself, I recently sat down with Margaret Jerrido, currently the archivist of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, formerly of Temple’s Urban Archives and the Medical College of Philadelphia, and first chair of the Delaware Valley Archivists’ Group. Here are some things I learned:
“I was never one to be dressed in dresses and heels”
Much of Ms. Jerrido’s work at the Urban Archives involved site visits to non-profits and community organizations — such as the Mount Airy Learning Tree and the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP — meaning she would be out in her jeans, in basements, appraising, packing, and shipping on-site.
DVAG started as a talking club for lone arrangers, “mom-and-pop shops,” whose institutions could not financially support travel to conferences such as SAA or MARAC, with the chief aim being to have archivists visit each other’s archives and compare practices. The first members spent a long time “haggling” over the name of the group.
Documentation, documentation, documentation
Ms. Jerrido is an accomplished oral historian, having travelled the united States in the 1990s on a grant to collect the testimonies of pioneering black women physicians. For my part, the only tense moment of the day was when Ms. Jerrido read the oral history release I’d drafted. (it passed muster.)
“African Americans are very reluctant to turn over their historical materials. No matter where you want to go. They have to be able to trust you. And you have to make sure that you are trustworthy.” Ms. Jerrido’s main theme in the interview was the human character of archives-work: whether in building a reputation among local organizations, taking in collections in person, or meeting living people to take testimony. Building trust, in her experience, is of chief importance for archivists seeking to take custody of African Americans’ collections.
Listen to the complete interview, with a lightly corrected machine-transcript, below:
Happy Archives Month, you guys. And if you have suggestions for other DVAG pioneers you’d like to see interviewed, let us know.
— David Staniunas, DVAG Archivist