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Meet a History Saver: Dana Barron

As HistoryIT celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2021, we want to take the time to share how amazing our team of history savers is. In this blog series, you’ll get to know each member of our organization who makes HistoryIT’s history-saving work possible. Meet Dana Barron — Project Director, musicologist and client support specialist.

Dana works closely with our clients from start to finish and ensures that our partnerships result in quality products that serve everyone’s needs. From assessment and processing to digital preservation imaging, metadata, ingest into our Odyssey preservation software, website development, and client training — she’s here to help.

1. In your role at HistoryIT what does a typical day look like?

In my role as Project Director, I frequently work on multiple projects in various stages, which means that every day is a little bit different. Some days, I meet with clients at the beginning of their projects to assess their collection items and discuss their visions for digital platforms. On others, I work with our metadata team at HistoryIT to create a meaningful library of subject tags for a project and to assure that our metadata is consistent and of high quality. I also organize digital collections and craft curated exhibits within Odyssey, our archival management software. At the end of projects, I provide training and continued support to our clients. In reality, a typical day includes some of each of those tasks! 

2. What about history inspires you?

History has so much to teach us about ourselves and our world! People have been recording their perspectives on events and ideas for thousands of years, and although the format may change, the stories remain. I love the process of discovering and piecing together these stories from primary sources. I often say that opening an archival box or a manuscript is like opening a Christmas present — you never know what part of the story you are going to find.

3. When did you discover HistoryIT and what is one memory from your first year working here?

I first connected with HistoryIT in 2014 when I was a graduate student at Indiana University and HistoryIT was partnered with the University of Indianapolis Mayoral Archive. I worked as a contractor to write metadata and create subject tags for thousands of photographs and documents. This not only provided some much-needed income for my graduate-student budget but also taught me a great deal about the local history of where I was living at the time.

4. Why should we be digitally preserving our history?

The short answer is so that we do not lose it. So many of those stories I mentioned earlier are hidden away in boxes and folders, whether in an organization’s archives or an individual’s basement or attic. There is always the possibility of physical loss due to fire or flood, of course, but intellectual loss is just as tragic. If knowledge of a box’s contents is held by a few archivists, researchers, or family members, what happens when those people are gone? It is also risky to allow history to be told by only a few individuals. When we digitize historical artifacts, we not only give more people access to them, but we also provide the building blocks that allow them to create their own interpretations, making our history more diverse and multi-voiced.

5. In celebration of HistoryIT’s 10th Anniversary, what is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

With my background as a musicologist, one of my favorite projects has been the Meredith Willson papers from The Great American Songbook Foundation. Although the website has now been archived, I enjoyed being able to work on a collection related to my particular field of expertise. I was fascinated in particular by the scripts for Willson’s various radio shows in the 1940s, during which he often introduced classical pieces alongside the era’s popular tunes, as well as the documents about productions of his musicals outside the United States during the Cold War.

6. What’s one mystery of history you would like to see solved?

So much music from the Medieval and Renaissance periods has no known composer. I would love to see more “Anonymous” designations replaced by actual names.

7. What’s one thing you want your clients to know about HistoryIT?

We want to help you preserve your history in a way that is meaningful to you. You should never feel embarrassed about the current state of your collections or lack of technological abilities, because we are excited to partner with you. You can share your history with us, and we will provide the organizational and technological expertise.

8. Who will play you when they create a movie about the making of a HistoryIT?

This is a tough one, since, as far as I know, I don’t have a famous doppelgänger! Maybe Alexis Bledel — she’s introverted like me and has played characters that are studious and hard-working.

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