SAA @ UCLA presents “UCLA Information Studies: Fields of Endeavor.” The Fields of Endeavor series introduces UCLA Library and Information Studies program graduates and current interns who are out in the field taking knowledge learned in the program and putting it to use! We are excited to feature NBCUniversal Archives and Collections intern Danielle Bass.
Name: Danielle Bass
Graduation Year: 2013
MLIS Focus: Archives
Job Title and Site: Archival intern, NBCUniversal Archives and Collections*
*Note: Danielle is discussing her internship placement for winter quarter, 2013.
What do you do all day?
My primary task at the archive is to complete a multi-year audit of the physical collection. This involves going down the storage aisles and opening every box to see what is inside and make sure that the contents match their locations in the collections management database. I get to handle props and costumes from movies and TV shows. I also have to put on my detective hat and engage in special research projects to identify what movie or TV show an object is from. In essence, this means that I get paid to watch DVDs! I’ve also had the opportunity to appraise assets from 30 Rock, set up exhibits, and do original cataloging for wardrobe from Law and Order: Los Angeles.
Most frequent response when you tell people what you do:
When I say that I’m an archivist, I most often receive a blank stare but when I mention that I work at NBCUniversal, people get very interested. “What do you do?” “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen?” “Meet anyone famous?”
Most interesting item, record, document, etc. you have come across:
I find exciting and bizarre items every day. Some more noteworthy examples are the sword from Spartacus, facial hair samples from Casino, Zac Efron’s underpants from Charlie St. Cloud, and boxes full of drug paraphernalia from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and How High.
What new skills have you developed through this experience?
I’ve learned a lot about prioritization and meeting deadlines and a little bit about corporate politics. Working in a corporate archive is very different from working in an academic archive; our activities at the archive serve the needs of the company rather than the public. When certain people call with a request, we drop everything that we are doing to fulfill that request. As a corporate department in a company with many parent company changes and buyouts, we constantly need to reaffirm our position and existence. Fulfilling corporate requests, creating exhibits on the Universal Lot, and lending props and costumes to productions helps to keep the department noticeable and relevant.
Recommendations for students who are interested in your type of internship: Watch a lot of TV. No, really. Identification of actors, productions, props and costumes is one of the most time-consuming tasks for this internship and a basic knowledge of NBCUniversal productions will help you go far. The entertainment industry is full of go-getters and I would encourage you to become one too. Speak to the entertainment archivists at the internship fair, network with other professionals, and don’t be afraid to do informational interviews!
One archival commandment you would establish:
Thou shalt identify thine collections. Seriously, a simple list of items or a tag on an artifact will help immensely with identification, description and access. Few things are quite as frustrating as opening a box and finding an unmarked pair of black shoes.
Favorite archive to visit:
My favorite archive to visit has to be the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden. The Arboretum is home to the only “living” archival collection in California: its plants! The Arboretum is also the quarantine zone for plants brought illegally into California, and unclaimed plants become part of the Arboretum’s permanent collection. Walking around the beautiful, sunny Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is a surefire way to brighten your day.
Favorite/Most memorable course from UCLA IS Department so far:
My favorite course is definitely the Preservation of Heritage Materials taught by Snowden Becker. Her teaching style is engaging and discussion-based, and classes are punctuated by practical and hands-on experience. By learning how different types of media degrade and fall apart, we are better informed to increase its lifespan.
Course you wish you had taken/want to take at UCLA IS Department:
I wish I had taken Mahnaz Ghaznavi’s Information and Records Management course.