American Archives Month has one week to go, and we’ve still got so much to share about the hard-working archivists in our Presidential Libraries! This post takes us out to Little Rock, AR, where we learn about this archivist’s responsibilities, experiences, and why she’s Team Socks.
Name: Kim Coryat
Occupation: Textual archivist at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library
How long have you worked at this library?
I was originally hired as a Museum Office Assistant in December 2004, about two weeks after the library opened.
How/why did you decide to go into the archival field?
Within a few months of my arrival in Little Rock, I realized that there was a job here at the Clinton Library for which I was eminently suited. I was an American History major in grad school, and have always been a huge politics nerd. Archivists at Presidential Libraries combine history, politics, and my other great love–reading, all into one big pile, and they mentally feast on it! The best part is they actually pay you to do this! From that point on I applied for every opening in the textual archives here at the Library. I was hired as an Archives Tech in 2006, and in 2009, they finally gave in and let me be an archivist. It’s what I should have done my entire life.
What are some of your responsibilities at your library?
I am a textual archivist working Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing. I am on the Health and Safety Committee because I am sort of a Doomsday Prepper Lite, in that I love the whole disaster prep and response thing, but I’m not ready to buy 20 acres in Idaho and put a cargo container into the ground as an end-of-the-world hideaway. Yet.
I am also the AFGE union representative for the Library.
What do you like best about your job?
There are two best things about being an archivist. First of all, it’s like achieving Introvert Nirvana on a daily basis. You could practically spend the entire day without interacting with anyone, if you so chose. I’m not that bad, but some days you just want to put your head down and work, and you can do that here. No one thinks it’s weird.
The other thing is that, as an archivist, you are a fly on the wall of history. You get to see everything in its unpreserved and raw form, and a lot of the time you are the first person to view this material since the responsible staffer put it in the box. It’s awe-inspiring to me.
Tell us about a time something unusual or unexpected happened to you in your line of work.
During the first year after we opened, a lot of famous people toured the facility. I heard one day that George McGovern was here walking around the museum with our then-director, Dave Alsobrook. It meant so much to me to actually meet this icon of American political history that I found the nerve to approach the men and ask for an introduction. Dave presented me, and I had the chance to have a few words with the senator. It was a high point in my life. If I didn’t work here, it never would have happened.
Tell us something about your President that the average American might be surprised to learn.
Bill Clinton is truly one of this country’s greatest rhetoricians. He pretty much looked at his team of speechwriters’ polished, finished material as outlines or suggestions and rewrote a majority of his prepared remarks. Those poor folks couldn’t have had any pride of authorship working for him.
If your library were attacked by zombies and you could only save one record, what would it be?
You wouldn’t actually have to worry about the documents if zombies attacked. They have no use for paper. Large-brained archivists, however, are considered a delicacy! But if I had to save only one thing in the face of calamity . . . nah, looks like the zombies will get me. I’ll never be able to decide.
If there was a competition for Best Presidential Pet, are you Team Buddy or Team Socks?
I would have to say Team Socks. Socks was a true example of American shorthair exceptionalism. After all, this smart tuxedo cat went from being a stray on the streets of Little Rock, Arkansas, all the way to the White House! We have some of Socks’s ashes here in museum storage at the Clinton Library.