Africa and the African Diaspora, Interviews
Meet the Schomburg's Newest Archivists!
Our newest archivists, Tiana Taliep and Alexsandra Mitchell, tell us what it’s like to research and preserve some of the finest materials across the African Diaspora, and their journey to the Schomburg Center:
Tell us about yourself.
Tiana Taliep: I’ve had an admiration for history ever since my grandfather told me he was an 82nd Airborne Paratrooper in World War II. This love only grew as I pursued my Bachelor’s degree in History from CUNY - Brooklyn College, focusing on Military History. It was there that I fell in love with the idea of becoming an Archivist working with rare materials. I volunteered at the Brooklyn College Archive and Special Collections, processing various collections, including the Coney Island’s Astroland Collection. Following that, I pursued a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science with a certification in Archiving and Preservation in Cultural Materials, from CUNY - Queens College. During this time I worked at the Oyster Bay Historical Society, processing textile collections, digitizing their scrapbook collection, and contributing to the installation of the 1912 Presidential Campaign exhibition. Prior to joining Schomburg, I was the Head Archivist at the Vincent Smith School, a private school located in Port Washington. I processed and digitized their Memorabilia Collection, dating from the early 1900s to present. I am an active member of the North Shore Historical Museum, which preserves the history of North Shore, Long Island, working with the Collections Committee. I recently started the blog Preserving Yesterday, which focuses on daily historical facts, local history, and other history-related topics.
Alexsandra Mitchell: I was born and raised in Philadelphia. My journey to the library and archives world began during my undergraduate studies at Howard University, where I worked with the South African Research and Archival Project in the Moorland Spingarn Research Center. It was here at the Schomburg, however, where I participated in the Schomburg-Mellon Summer Humanities Institute that I realized I not only wanted to interrogate and engage primary resources as a scholar but that I also enjoyed working with the materials on a more intimate level. That summer, [former MARB Curator] Diana Lachatanere and [MARB Assistant Curator] Steven G. Fullwood were gracious enough to sit and speak with me about going to library school. The fall after undergrad I moved to Dakar, Senegal for a year-long teaching fellowship at the Senegalese American Bilingual School. So it feels good to be in Harlem, close to the Senegalese population again. In 2011 I began graduate school at New York University (NYU) where I completed my dual masters in Library Science (Long Island University Palmer School) and Africana Studies (NYU) in 2013. During my first year of graduate school, Dr. Sylviane Diouf, Curator of Digital Collections and the Director of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery here at the Schomburg, hired me as a research assistant. This is a full circle moment for me, and it feels fantastic! It feels good to be home.
What are you most excited about at the Schomburg Center right now?
TT: It has been an absolute dream to work with rare primary sources with my own hands in the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division [MARB]! With my South African roots, I am thrilled to work for one of the prominent institutions focusing on the African experience. My passion for archiving and African history has grown in the short time since I have been here. I am excited to help preserve the history and culture of people of African descent so that future generations can appreciate these unique materials as much as I do.
What has it been like to work in both the Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division and MARB?
AM: Fantastic! We are working with a great team, and everyone has been extremely welcoming. I’m honored to work among such brilliant and forward-thinking colleagues! I recently worked on some very exciting projects including a pop-up exhibition for our ‘First Fridays: Prince vs. Michael Jackson Edition’ and a podcast series. I also attended the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School course titled “History of the Printed Book in the West Since 1800” at the Grolier Club, and I look forward to applying the information learned at the course to our rare books collection here. I’m also really excited about the archival collections that I am currently accessioning, including the Cheryl Boyce Taylor Collection and the Mary Helen Washington Papers. It has been an extremely busy first month! I look forward to growing here.