Back during IGGPPC Round #2, I was paired up with an awesome iggle named Jessica. We have a lot in common including our love of museums and a strong desire to touch really old things! She’s recently taken on a HUGE project to curate and archive the 104 year history of the company she works for, and I’ve super excited to feature her work in our I Have A Cool Job series.
1. Thank you so much for doing this interview! What’s your job title and where do you work?
I work at CoorsTek. We make technical ceramics and labware. I have two job titles: IT Administrative Associate and CoorsTek Heritage Program Curator.
2. Can you tell us a bit about the work you are doing and what makes it awesome?
CoorsTek is 104 years old. The Heritage Program is working to protect and promote the history of CoorsTek and everything associated with the company. This is no small undertaking; we have 42 locations around the world. As a company, we had a part in helping the Manhattan Project, created one of the first American porcelains, made armor for soldiers, tubes for X-Ray/MRI/CAT Scan machines and much, much more! My job is to collect all of this history, plus the history of the employees who make our company run. I love my job; we’ve had a part in so much of the 20th Century, and I get to collect it. There are so many technological changes over 104 years, I get to learn something new every day. I am really lucky in that fact.
3. When did you first realize you wanted to become a archivist?
Well… about half-way through my Master’s program. This was a terrible time to suddenly decide that the program I was in was not meant for what I wanted to do with my life. My Master’s program was far too theoretical. We spent more time talking about what historians had written about museums than we did talking about how to care for collections. That was when I abandoned my program.
Also, I love things. Historical things. You can call me a bit of a packrat but I have always loved the idea of holding a piece of history in your hand. I have trouble going to museums because I want to touch things. I get to now!
4. What did you go to school for? Did school primarily help you for this job, or did other hobbies, work experience, and personal learning on your own time help more?
I have a Bachelor’s in History and most of a Master’s in Museum Studies. Being involved in corporate history is a bit different from being involved in a traditional archive or museum. With all of the requests coming from outside the company and inside the company and working with all of the departments within a company, corporate archivists don’t usually have time to do much more than tread water.
I started this project 2 years ago as what should have been the completion for my MA. I didn’t finish my MA, but the project survived and is growing. I had no idea when I started at CoorsTek in IT that I would be helping to preserve its history.
5. What’s a typical work day like?
Right now, I get in around 7am and deal with all things Help Desk related. Then, after I eat lunch, I go to where the archive is located. Once I’m at the archive, I do a huge range of things. I am conducting oral history interviews, writing stories for our company newsletter, writing building histories, scanning documents and photos, writing historical papers to re-engage our employees and teach them about our history, working on revamping our historical section for our website, planning where to go all over the world to collect the history of our plants outside of Golden, finding “pockets” of history that might be located in people’s offices, inventorying the archive in more detail, researching things in our collection (like an insulator used in uranium separation during the Manhattan Project!), answering questions from employees or community members, doing lectures about history, or tours, and planning every detail for the beginning of this project- writing polices, working within the Marketing department, spreading the news that we exist, working with IT to create a digital archive management system. I am also going to be creating our intranet page so that employees can know more about us.
6. What sort of specific role do you play in keeping the things ticking over?
I, along with my counterpart, who works for our parent company, are the sole caretakers of everything. SUPER RESPONSIBILITY POWERS ACTIVATE! Because of my contacts with everyone I talk to through IT, I gathered quite a bit of support for the project before we were officially sanctioned. As Curator, it is my job to drum up support for the project. Which, is pretty great? I love sharing my passion for what we do as a company so that translates into a super awesome job.
7. What’s the most interesting and exciting part of your job? What has been most rewarding part of your job?
I get to learn something new every day. How awesome is that? I am also working on solving a century-old mystery about our founder (no one knows much about him except that he came from Ohio and moved to Colorado and then left Colorado for Ohio).
8. What are some of the more unusual perks of your job?
I get to research! I did an internship as an undergraduate and told my boss that I wanted to be a historical researcher and he told me, “good luck”. An archivist’s job is to gather and organize a collection. A curator’s job is to research a collection and tell people about it.
Another unusual perk, I get to touch things. I mean, sure, it’s not Marie Antoinette’s chair or an original Van Gogh but we have a couple of pieces of John Herold’s “Gem of the Rockies” line, of which there are only a few surviving pieces of. They’re very rare and really pretty and not in the best shape but they are the gem of my collection. I also get to travel. We have plants all over the US and in many different European countries, and in lots of Asian countries, and in South American, and Canada, and in Central America. I get to wear jeans every day. But, really, the most unusual is I get to spend all day researching historical topics as long as they relate to what we make. I get to research space travel. And WTF is ceramic anyway? And how does this thing actually work? (Like how does a computer work and why is ceramic the only option for some things… How did Alumina become standard for the ceramics industry?) And I get paid to do it.
9. What would you offer as advice to someone who wanted to get into the same type of job as you?
Get a Master’s. Do a lot of volunteer work. Don’t be afraid to yell at your boss. (Actually, this is terrible advice. Don’t do this. Ever.) Just keep swimming!
Do you have a cool job, or know someone who has a cool job? We would love to interview them! Leave a comment and let us know!