American Archives Month: Ryan Rutkowski, Carter Presidential Library

We continue with our celebrations of American Archives Month with our series highlighting a few of the outstanding folks in our Presidential Libraries.

Archivist Ryan Rutkowski has crisscrossed the nation in his pursuit of public history. From San Francisco to Chicago to Wheeling, WV, Rutkowski has finally found a home under the southern sun in Atlanta, GA. Read on to find out about his duties as an archivist, and how his job once led him to play a priest on the History Channel.

Ryan Rutkowski is an archivist at the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta, GA.
Ryan Rutkowski is an archivist at the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta, GA.

Name: Ryan Rutkowski

Occupation: Archivist at Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

How long have you worked at this library?

Almost two years.

How/why did you decide to go into the archival field?

When I was an undergraduate, I had an opportunity to volunteer and intern at the Archives for the Archdiocese of San Francisco during my senior year at the University of San Francisco. The archivist, who was also my professor, gave me a broad range of duties that include processing, cataloging, and answering research requests.

I was particularly amazed at the rich history that was being preserved there, from the Mission Dolores artifacts dating to the 1700s to the sacramental records that were saved from parishes destroyed in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. I enjoyed working hands with the material and provide research assistants to variety of clients. After this experience, I decide to pursue a Master’s degree in Public History at Loyola University Chicago.

What are some of your responsibilities at your library?

I process collections, enter material into our online catalog, perform research requests, create finding, assist as a records custodian for the Archives department for RIM, and serve on the digitization and finding aid committees.

What do you like best about your job?

I like serving the public. I find it to be a great joy when I am able to assist a researcher with their paper, book, or History Day project.

Tell us about a time something unusual or unexpected happened to you in your line of work.

When I was the archivist for the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WV, I had an opportunity to be an extra on the History Channel miniseries, The Men Who Built America (episode: Bloody Battles). The History Channel was in Wheeling, WV, to begin taping a portion of the series at an old nail factory. They needed a priest to perform last rites for a particular scene, so they stopped by the Chancery Office. However, it was the week before Christmas, and most of the priests were out of town.

I was working in the office when the Chancery receptionist called me down to speak with them. As soon as they saw me, they asked me if I was interested in the role. Within a matter of minutes, I was down at the set, getting makeup put on, and rehearsing my two lines. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, and it was something I never expected to happen when I drove into work that morning.

Tell us something about your President that the average American might be surprised to learn.

In October 1969, as Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter saw a UFO over the skies of Leary, GA. We have the report that he submitted into the International UFO Bureau.

If your library were attacked by zombies and you could only save one record, what would it be?

A letter signed by Willie Nelson.

If you were carving a President Carter-themed pumpkin, what design would you choose and why?

I would carve an outline of the state of Georgia with a peanut in the middle.

Georgia is the President’s home state, and it was where he started his political career as State Senator, Governor, and then President. It is also home to the Carter Center.

President Carter’s family farmed peanuts when he was a boy, and one of his first money-making ventures was to sell boiled peanuts. After leaving the United States Navy, he returned to Plains and took over the family peanut business. When he began to run for office, Carter capitalized on his peanut farmer persona, and the peanut became synonymous with Jimmy Carter’s campaign.

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