For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.
Name: Jaimie Kicklighter
Title: Collections Archivist
Specialties: Arranging and describing archival collections and working to preserve the archival material in our holdings.
How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?
I completed a graduate public history program that allowed me to explore archival work. When I wasn’t in class, I worked at the university archives as a student where I gained experience in processing, digitization, and metadata creation. I loved the work so much that I decided to make it a career. After finishing my degree, I entered the archives profession at an academic archives where I processed collections and helped out with other tasks like reference and digitization. A couple of years later I moved into government archives and am very happy that this path led to the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
What is your role?
My primary job duty is to describe and care for archival collections. I work with government records as well as private collections that have been donated by individuals or organizations. I’m very lucky because I get to spend a lot of time with these interesting records as I describe them for potential researchers and identify how best to arrange and store them. My goal is to connect researchers with collections while ensuring that the items themselves remain stable and usable far into the future.
What is something you enjoy about working in the Collections Section?
My favorite thing about working in the Collections Section is constantly discovering new things. There have been so many times where one document opened my eyes to Alabama history in a new way or made some aspect of the past seem suddenly very tangible. I find this to be true for those big, textbook history moments as well as the glimpses our archival collections give us into everyday life in the past. Though I certainly felt awed when I saw the telegrams exchanged between Governor George Wallace and President John F. Kennedy surrounding Wallace’s stand in the schoolhouse door, I found myself equally intrigued reading about the Christmas celebration of a rural Alabama family in the early 1900s. My hope is always that the descriptive work I do helps others have those moments, too!
What do you view as the biggest challenge facing the profession today?
I find preservation to be the most daunting of the many challenges facing archivists, particularly in light of the ever-increasing formats of records in our technological age. Just as we always have, archivists are still acquiring and preserving paper records. With the stable environment, careful arrangement, and specialized housing this entails, not to mention treatments that some of the more fragile items require, this is a large challenge in itself. On top of that, we must now preserve records coming to the archives in electronic form. In many cases, electronic records require more active preservation than paper records because of issues like bit rot (the corruption of electronic data over time) or the difficulties in acquiring outdated equipment and programs to access files and media created in the past. Archivists must now perform tasks like checking the integrity of electronic files and regularly migrating them to current file formats to ensure the stability of electronic records while continuing to care for the paper records in their holdings.
What are your hobbies when you are not at work?
I enjoy reading, walking (especially with my dog), and knitting. I also recently decided to try my hand at gardening; as of this writing, the plants are still alive!