By Sarah-Jane Poindexter
Five years ago I came to the Filson…a shy, green archivist with a mild understanding of local history and the daily challenges of the archival profession. Today I depart, an experienced and confident associate curator prepared and excited to meet the challenges ahead. I feel deeply grateful to the mentorship, friendship, and positive professional experience I have received from my Filson family. This chapter has left an indelible influence on my life’s journey, and at risk of being too sappy, I’d like to reflect on a few of the qualities that stand out.
Professionalism & Service
I love this picture of Col. Reuben T. Durrett’s home library. It was here that the Filson began. A gentleman’s club, comprised mostly of Civil War veterans, who reconciled their different allegiances through their love of Kentucky history …and for smoking cigars and drinking Durrett’s famous hard cider! This picture reminds me of how far the Filson has come, and how far it yet will go. Once upon a time, ten men named their group after John Filson, who was considered to be Kentucky’s first historian, and met to present papers to one another on historical topics. Now their “club” – 128 years later – has evolved into a nationally renowned research center dedicated to regional history and culture, with more than 1.8 million manuscripts, photographs, portraits, rare books, and historic artifacts, and a professionally-trained staff to thoughtfully and dedicatedly advance the institution’s mission. But it doesn’t stop there. In 2014, the Filson will break ground on an exciting building expansion. This development will create a research campus and give the Filson greater opportunity to collect, preserve, and tell the significant stories of the Ohio Valley region.
Through the Filson’s front door flows a constant stream of outstanding research fellows, interns, volunteers, patrons, students workers, and community researchers. This community of patrons has pushed me to be a better archivist and has challenged me to be more effective in meeting the information, research and service needs of our diverse population. The interests of our community toward the Filson’s historical resources and the ways in which they are used never ceases to inspire me. Their work varies from consulting historical architectural drawings to preserve a Louisville landmark, to delving into orphanage records from the 1880′s for the sake of identifying anonymous children on a graveside monument, to researching the impact of slavery on the frontier economy. Everyday is different and challenging when working with researchers and archival collections.
These pictures from the Melville Otter Briney collection humble me to the timelessness of the human experience. It has been an endless delight working with the Filson’s rich manuscript collections, and to assist others in making meaningful connections with the archival materials. The historical collections help us to learn from our past, to enrich our present, and inform our future. History documented in the Filson’s collections celebrates our regional identity, preserves our cultural memory, and documents the fascinating and rich experiences of human life.
Friendship & Colleagues
I will treasure the multi-generational friendships and colleagues that I have developed while working at the Filson. They have broaden my mind, energized my heart, and forever influenced my understanding of collegiality, support, encouragement, and intellectual engagement.
As Alfred Tennyson said, “I am a part of all that I have met,” and thanks to the Filson, I have met greatness.