Through his work-study job in the College Archives and Special Collections at Keene State’s Mason Library, sophomore Davis Allen is learning more about a period he’s very interested in – World War II – and also trying out a career possibility.
“I could see myself working in archives in the future,” said Allen, a history major who is considering minoring in Holocaust and genocide studies. His archives job is a good fit; he’s working with the Spear Collection, materials donated last year by the daughter of Ivan Spear, the U.S. government photographer at the post-World War II trials of Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg, Germany.
Allen is helping to categorize the materials, which include photographs taken in the courtroom, Nazi war medals and citations and newspapers from the time. He’ll also be helping College Archivist Rodney Obien organize an exhibit of the collection that will be on display for the official opening of the new Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies building in October.
The items in the Spear Collection are very intriguing, said Allen, who found specialized databases that are helping him identify the donated military medals and pins. He’s learned enough about the collection to give a presentation on some of the items to a Holocaust and genocides studies class that was studying the Nuremburg Trials during the spring semester.
He began working at the archives during his first year at Keene State, thanks to a referral from Christine Hrynowski, his counselor in the College’s Aspire program. Aspire provides academic support services for students, which Allen said have been extremely helpful to him in organizing his time so he can get his coursework done and also schedule in down time.
“Chris goes above and beyond, always, to help me,” he said.
He’s also in the school’s Morris-August Honors Program, which serves high-achieving, academically motivated students. This semester, he’s taking one honors course – Intro to Astronomy – along with a history class on Imperial Germany, a Holocaust and genocide studies class on comparative genocide and a music elective, Teaching Music to Children.
It’s an eclectic mix that reflects his desire to fulfill his general education requirements through classes that he enjoys. Hence the astronomy course, which is a good fit for someone who wears his interest in space on his T-shirts – a NASA T-shirt on one recent day and a “Star Wars” shirt the next.
“My shirts profess that if I were not studying history, I might be going into outer space,” said Allen, who was fascinated by astronomy and astronauts as a kid.
He’s taking the music class because he’s a musician – he plays the trumpet in the Keene State Concert Band. The professor, Erin Zaffini, has an interesting approach, Davis said: She leads the class of college students in the same way she has led children in elementary and middle schools.
“She’s geared toward teaching music to children rather than teaching college students about teaching music to children,” he said.
It’s a very effective strategy for a class of primarily non-music majors, many of whom are majoring in education.
“It’s simple and easy to understand, so even people who haven’t had experience with music are catching on quickly,” he added.
A resident of Williston, Vt., Allen opted for Keene State after visiting campus and determining the college has a lot to offer, including opportunities in the City of Keene, the Holocaust and genocide studies major and a new master’s program in history and archive studies. Unlike many of his peers who are history majors, he’s not planning to become a middle- or high-school teacher.
If he decides to pursue a career working with archives, he said, he will be well-prepared for the Keene State master’s program after he earns his bachelor’s degree. If not, he figures he’ll be ready for any kind of work that involves interacting with artifacts, perhaps in a museum or historical society.
In the meantime, he’s very happy with his work-study job, which provides just the right mix of working with artifacts and interacting with people. His enthusiasm for the work has encouraged some of his history major friends to apply to work at the archives as well, and two are starting jobs there this semester.
“The archives? It’s very cool,” said Allen.