Library Gazette

Meet the New Director of Special Collections & Archives

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 8:36 am

Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Director, Special Collections & University Archivist

Tanya Zanish-Belcher in her own words…

I am so pleased and proud to join the ZSR Library as Director of Special Collections & University Archivist! My professional career path has led me to Winston-Salem after 17 years as Head of Special Collections at Iowa State University. I look forward to sharing my experiences from there with Special Collections here – and to focus on sharing library collections with members of the Wake Forest campus community and broader public. Special Collections collects the rare and unique, and it is crucial to recognize their importance and value, and to guarantee their permanent preservation. At the same time, however, administering a department like this requires a delicate balancing act between preservation and access. Access can mean many things, and can include a visit to see the original, or going online to see a digital version of the original. Our audiences should realize that Special Collections has resources, not only collections but also expert staff, waiting and willing to assist with a myriad of projects! Special Collections means Sharing, in my rare book.

As an undergraduate History major, I struggled with what career to pursue, until a professor recommended the Public History program at Wright State University. At the time, WSU was the only university in Ohio offering any kind of programming in this area, and I followed a dual archives/museum track. From the moment I took my first class, I knew I had found my calling in life. Archives offers a unique opportunity to combine a number of elements – the study and comprehension of the complexity of history, the sharing of these unique resources with the public, and, lastly, it requires the management of people, time, and other resources. The management component has allowed me to face the challenge of evaluating these available resources and match them with the needs to both preserve and access rare and unique materials. In addition, working with archives provides a physical challenge as well – there are always boxes to move, books to re-shelve and items to shift. My 20 years of experience as an archivist have also helped me to view my professional career as part of a continuum, in what I can contribute to my institution – I am one of many, and my role is to ensure that collections are safe and secure for the next generation.

However, and this is the critical issue for special collections and archives, there is no point in preserving material if you do not make it available for someone to use.

For additional information regarding my previous publications and vita, please see my website.

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