PHS Staff Profile: Nick Skaggs
What is your role at PHS? What do you do from day-to-day?
I work as a processing archivist. Day-to-day, I prepare and process collections of records and papers for research use. This includes physically rehousing collections in archival folders and containers (this helps to preserve collections) and creating catalog records and collection guides (this increases the discoverability and usability of collections). Processing work also helps establish a framework for digitization of collection materials.
In addition to my processing work, I’m also the contact person for the Pam Byers Memorial Collection, our collecting area of LGBTQIA+ materials documenting queer history within and around the Presbyterian Church.
How does your work support the mission of PHS?
My work aids in the long-term preservation of collections. Processed collections are more stable than unprocessed collections, and processing gives us physical and intellectual control of collections. My work also aids in the use of collections. It’s much easier for a researcher to discover a collection once it has been processed, and it’s much easier for a researcher to survey the contents of a collection by consulting its catalog record and collection guide. Imagine having to look through 50 boxes of materials without really knowing what’s in each box (a huge waste of time!).
Collection guides especially aid researchers in their pursuits. These guides include an inventory of folder titles, which really helps researchers pinpoint specific materials that they’d like to see. It also helps PHS staff. Instead of retrieving an entire collection, we can just retrieve the boxes that a researcher has identified and wants to see.
Why do you love working at PHS?
Processing is the part of the archival profession that I have the most passion about. I enjoy turning something that’s unwieldy and messy into something well-arranged and more usable. Having a job where processing is my primary duty is super fulfilling for me, and it really makes the best use of my talents as an archivist. PHS has a lot of great and interesting collections that include a wide variety of materials and formats covering tons of subjects and topics across decades and centuries, and I love working on the collections and getting them into a better state. I’m very proud of the opportunity to aid researchers (and future researchers) by creating tools that they will (hopefully!) find useful when they come to do their research.
What do you find most inspiring about PHS?
I’m a much newer staff member here than some, but in the year and four months that I’ve been at PHS, I’ve seen both staff and the institution accomplish a lot. I’m currently serving with other coworkers on a reparative description group, where we look back and try to remediate harmful and outdated language in our catalog records, collection guides, and descriptions of digital and digitized materials. It’s really inspiring to be a part of something like that, not to mention having the institutional buy-in and support to make it even possible.
Please share an interesting/fun fact about yourself.
I lived in South Korea for two non-consecutive years (once after undergrad, once after grad school) teaching English as a second language. I have a lot of fond memories of those two years. South Korea is an amazing country with some of the loveliest people, not to mention some of the best food (ever!).