For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.
Name: Mary Clare Johnson
Title: Collections Archivist
Specialties: Arranging, describing, and preserving archival collections
How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?
I became interested in a career as a librarian while still in college and decided to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science at the University of South Carolina. While there, I had the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant at an archive, the South Carolina Political Collections, an experience that I enjoyed greatly and that led me to decide to specialize in archival studies and preservation management. After I graduated, I worked for a year at an academic archive before obtaining a position at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH).
What is your role?
My primary role is to process archival materials donated to the ADAH by private individuals and organizations. Created by the citizens, institutions, and organizations of Alabama, these materials often include correspondence, diaries, photographs, and scrapbooks, spanning the early 1800s to the present day. Processing means that I arrange, describe, catalog, preserve, store, and provide access to these materials so that potential researchers can locate and utilize them.
What is something you enjoy about working in the Collections Section?
I enjoy the wide variety of materials I get to process: everything from an 1870s handwritten recipe book to letters written by soldiers during World War I to a diary kept by a 10-year-old girl living on a cotton farm in 1934. Getting to handle and provide access to these records that will be here for researchers, historians, and the public long after I leave is such a special privilege!
What do you view as the biggest challenge facing the profession today?
I believe the biggest challenge is managing, preserving, and providing access to electronic records. It is an area of expertise that not all archivists have yet grasped, but we are well on our way.
What are your hobbies when you are not at work?
I enjoy hiking, watching old movies, assembling puzzles, and playing the violin.