As cofounder and president of the Early Modern Paleography Society (EMPS), a student organization at UNC-Charlotte focused on studying and transcribing manuscripts from the early modern period, Nadia Clifton had examined a variety of digitized materials from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Viewing the online versions, however, didn’t fully prepare her for what she would encounter at Folger’s second annual Transcribathon in November 2016, when she was admitted to the reading room and had her first chance to inspect the volumes in person.
“I was amazed at the types of information I could read on the physical page, such as watermarks and details on how the books were bound,” she said. “Now I am interested in studying the use of digital and physical materials in tandem.”
Clifton’s interest in archives and special collections brought her to the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), where she is now a first-year Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) student. Her already impressive list of credentials and experiences related to the archives field, including the launch of EMPS, earned her one of just four spots in the competitive Association of Research Libraries (ARL)/Society of American Archivists (SAA) Mosaic Fellowship Program.
Clifton said she was honored to be selected for a program aimed at promoting diversity in the archives and special collection workforce.
“Diversity is essential to the archives profession because the materials we access shape who we are and how we interact with the world,” Clifton said. “Like the theorist Judith Butler, I believe that identity categories are necessary, yet troubling. These categories can be utilized to ensure that groups of people are not discriminated against. However, just as limitations occur if you choose only digital material over physical material, we will miss valuable information and viewpoints if we limit ourselves to single categories. Including diverse people and materials in archives means that we can work towards understanding how the materials’ interpretation and value contribute to self-identity.”
As a Mosaic fellow, Clifton will participate in a one-year paid internship at Wilson Special Collections Library and attend the 14th Annual ARL Leadership Symposium in February 2018 and the August 2018 ARL/SAA Mosaic Leadership Forum held at the SAA Annual Meeting.
Originally from Charlotte, Clifton earned her B.A. in English with a minor in cognitive science and her M.A. in English with a concentration in literature from UNC-Charlotte. She was a Charlotte Research Scholar in 2014, working on the Augusta Sophia collection at UNC-C’s Atkins Library. She created a detailed record of the collection’s 110 volumes, researched the provenance, and studied the marginalia. She attended two courses at the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School, learning techniques for reading the traces left in physical books of the hand-press period and training to read early modern English secretary, italic, and mixed hands in a variety of documents. With EMPS, she worked to transcribe early modern recipe books for a database project at the Folger Library that allows patrons to both access and search through the manuscripts online.
Clifton said she chose SILS because of its reputation as a top archives and record management program, and because both Chapel Hill and SILS seemed welcoming.
“The SILS community is very active, from the projects that professors are conducting, to the job postings I get from the jobs listserv, to the student organizations,” she said. “Not only will I will get a quality education in terms of knowledge and academic experiences, but the people – students, faculty, and staff – I meet will become a strong network and cohort with which I can work and contribute.”