In the eighth grade, Annie Benefiel shadowed a curator at the Indianapolis State Museum. One of her tasks involved cataloging nails that were found at a preservation site.
“At the time, I thought, ‘This is really boring, I’m cataloging nails,’” Benefiel said. “When I think about the work I do now, it’s very similar to that. I mean, it’s not nails, but I do have the same passion for archiving.”
Benefiel arrived at Grand Valley in 2014. She served as the assistant archivist for Special Collections and University Archives, overseeing a transition into an online archival database, “Archive Space.” She also worked with faculty and staff members to identify collections that had not been processed.
When former archivist Nancy Richard retired, Benefiel worked with Special Collections Director Robert Beasecker to reposition the department. Benefiel said she and Beasecker want to improve the way collections are integrated into the curriculum.
Tasked with rewriting her own job description, Benefiel explored the specifics of her work.
“It was a very good exercise that allowed me to reflect on what happens in the department and how to best use my expertise and experience,” Benefiel said.
Her job remains largely familiar: she works directly with the collections, and maintains the department’s website and Archive Space. While it is not a drastic change, her new position allows Benefiel to focus on specifics aspects of her job that were not in the spotlight before.
Benefiel said engagement is one of the biggest challenges facing Special Collections, as the material does not circulate and student access is low.
“A lot of students are very accustomed to finding information online, and they do a terrific job of it,” Benefiel said. “The idea that you have to go to a place, and look at the actual physical materials in that place, is a challenge for some students.”
A new position at Special Collections will focus on engaging students with the collection, and Benefiel said the staff will look for better ways to integrate their material into classroom teaching.
“Really, I just want to see our collections get more use,” Benefiel said.