Researcher Profiles: Erica Deschak

This is the second in a new series on researchers who use our collections. Meet Erica Deschak! Here are her thoughts on the research process and the special collections of George Mason University Libraries.

Please tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Erica Deschak. I turned 21 last week, I’m a junior at George Mason University majoring in History. I would like to minor in either linguistics or literature.

Describe your research project:

My research project is an archival paper about local history. I used George Mason’s Special Collections and Archives to research the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area, and their views on the local juvenile justice system.

How did you find the collections here at SC&A?

I took History 300 with Professor Laura Moore this past semester (Fall 2011). On our first day of class, she took us to Special Collections to meet
Leah [Richardson], and to get some basic exposure to archives; procedures, folders, boxes etc.

How did you learn to conduct primary source research?

As a student, I have been exposed to primary source research before, but this semester allowed me to further my research a lot more. English 302 with Professor Saunders, History 352 with Professor Ritterhouse… I had many opportunities to do “original” research.

Advice on primary source research for other undergraduates or first-time researchers?

When doing archival research for the first time, take your time, and write down EVERYTHING. Pay attention to details. Everything has meaning.

What are your impressions of GMU? The archives?

Mason has been a great experience so far.  Special Collections is not intimidating. It’s for students and scholars, and everyone I talked to was extremely helpful. It made my research paper a lot more enjoyable.

Archival Instruction

Over the past few years we have hosted an increasing number of classes each semester in our reading room, much to our delight. One of our goals as a department is to reach more undergraduate students and introduce them to the joys of archival research. This past week we had over 20 undergraduate students here to learn about primary sources and how to begin including primary sources into their research. The class was HIST 389: The Civil Rights Movement and in the instruction session we gave them hand-on experience with some of the materials in our collections that relate to the Civil Rights Movement. These collections include C. Harrison Mann papers, Ollie Atkins Photograph collection, and the Philp Levy Civil Rights collection.

The students had a great time and several are ready to get into the reading room to begin working on their next assignment.

Here is the presentation that we included: