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Connecting the Scholarly Dots: A New Staff Member Enhances the Kluge Center Database

The following is a guest post by Emily Coccia, Program Assistant at The John W. Kluge Center.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived for my first day of work at the Kluge Center in June. I knew I’d be working with the database the Center uses to manage information about its scholars, and I had been told to bring a warm sweater (due to the air conditioning). But I had no idea what the day-to-day would be like.

As it’s turned out, the majority of my work has been to update and maintain the Center database. The updates I’ve made and the research I’ve done have varied greatly. From following the academic trajectories of our past resident scholars to entering publications related to the research they conducted while here, I’ve had the opportunity to see the wonderful opportunities afforded to our Fellows. In the office, the Wednesday brown-bag lunches provide an informal opportunity for the staff and Fellows to meet and talk, while each of the scholars’ lectures provides a chance to learn something new. Over the past few months I’ve had the chance to hear about the cult of celebrity Edna St. Vincent Millay fashioned through photography, to browse the discoveries made by the Library’s Junior Fellows, and to attend a panel discussion on the intersection of astrobiology with historical, cultural, and artistic modes of thought.

Emily Coccia

Emily Coccia, Program Assistant at The John W. Kluge Center, without her warm sweater, August 28, 2015. Photograph by Travis Hensley.

My friends assume that sitting in on the lectures and free events offered at the Library has been the best part of my job. I won’t lie: it’s a great perk! But for me, watching our database take shape as I’ve filled in gaps and added more information has been incredibly satisfying. In addition to following up with our past residents, I’ve created entries for all of our invited guests who have participated in Kluge Center events such as book talks, panel discussions and symposia. These alone have added more than 300 names to our database, providing a more accurate picture of the breadth of scholarship conducted behind our wood-paneled walls. I’ve also linked press releases and webcasts of the events to particular scholars, which helps enrich what might otherwise be an incomplete record.

The work may sound a bit tedious but it has its rewards. On a personal level, I’ve found reading about the work of our scholars to be fascinating. More than once I’ve emailed myself titles of books and articles to read later on, either for fun or for my own academic work. On a professional level, it’s been great to hear from colleagues in the office who have noticed a difference in the amount of information available in our database and to think about the ways that this new data might help the Center going forward: from connecting scholars to each other to providing a clearer picture of the work that has been done here over the past 15 years. From listening to the discussions at lunch, attending lectures, and just talking to people around the office, I can promise that the work they’re doing is worth learning about.

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