WestConn Fellowship Helps Students Preserve CT History

danbury ct history

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WestConn students are connected to jobs in archives and museums through the now year-old Herb Janick Archives Fellowship. The fellowship’s namesake Herb Janick is a professor emeritus of history who was instrumental in establishing the WestConn archives.

The archives bring together collections of local historical materials that range from municipal records to private letters. Some notable examples include a large collection of WWI propaganda, tracts urging the reform of an insane asylum, files from the Danbury chapter of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and an extensive collection of images depicting black life during segregation.

The fellowship provides one student per semester a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience in an archival environment and to conduct original research. Both undergraduate and graduate students can apply. “They have to be a history major or minor and have an interest in pursuing work in archives, museums, or some other pertinent vocation,” said fellowship director Brian Stevens, archivist & special collections librarian.

The fellowship consists of two complementary parts. Students work in the WestConn archives, where they are trained in the best practices and techniques of archival management. “It’s like an apprenticeship. When a collection comes in they learn how to record it and how to deal with it. They help with patrons who need research assistance. Patrick Shea, a former Janick Fellow, received media attention after helping a library patron find information on her birth family. Shea was able to locate information about her birth brother within 24 hours with only basic details to go on.

The second part of the fellowship is a research project. When applying for the fellowship, students must write a proposal for their project. “The idea is that they would use the collections [at WestConn] for the project, but they can work with other [local historical] groups too,” said Stevens. For example, Shea worked with the Danbury Railway Museum on his project. The research project helps illuminate and preserve the history of Western Connecticut.

Students interested in the fellowship should contact Brian Stevens by email at stevensb@wcsu.edu

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