Today’s interview is with Christine Gant, a remote metadata volunteer working with the Digital Resources Division on the early U.S. Report volumes.
Describe your background.
I am originally from Seoul, South Korea, but I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. Even as a child, I loved Boston’s rich history and culture, and delighted in the chance to get to know the people who had come from around the world to join in on its vibrant intellectual life. After high school, I moved once more—to Scotland—where I lived and studied for four years in the seaside town of St. Andrews.
What is your academic/professional history?
I graduated from University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom with an MA in international relations and film studies. Interested in the nexus between creative industries and law, I’ve worked in recent years at South Korea’s national broadcasting system (KBS), a small media and culture content startup, as well as at the Media Diversity and Social Change Initiative (MDSCI) at the University of Southern California. I am currently a research assistant to a faculty member at Harvard Law School and a teaching fellow at CopyrightX, an online course on copyright law. As a member of Harvard’s Recording Artists Project (RAP), I’ve also worked this past year to help musicians navigate some of the legal questions they encounter.
How would you describe your job to other people?
My primary work as a remote metadata intern has been to catalog and review four early volumes of the United States Reports (comprising Pennsylvania and U.S. Supreme Court opinions from 1754-1806). This is part of a four-part initiative in which we are working to make four important historical collections (Federal Register, U.S. Code, Code of Federal Regulations, and U.S. Reports) more accessible to the public. Having worked as a researcher before, I had come to understand the importance of metadata firsthand, so it has been particularly exciting to help ensure that invaluable resources like these can better serve scholars and the public alike.
I began this internship just when the early United States Reports needed to be completed, so I took on the job without knowing too much about what the task entailed or what to expect. It turns out that I couldn’t have had a more rewarding experience. Grappling with these important primary sources has been an amazing opportunity to learn about legal history while seeing it in action.
Even in the most unlikely of circumstances, the lawyers, judges, reporter of decisions, and plaintiffs and defendants in these first volumes are tasked with a number of massive projects. Such projects include figuring out citizenship and the legal ties binding people together in a new country; the transformed international environment; rethinking the use of legal history in a post-independence context; and sorting out the particulars of judicial functioning under a new national authority. In addition, these early volumes were compiled unofficially, inclusive of proceedings from different courts.
I hope that making these cases more accessible to and searchable by the public will invite further study of these rich resources and the era that produced them.
As you can see, the Law Library offers interns a variety of exciting projects to choose from and does a great job of trying to match interns’ work with their skills and interests. While the work is “remote,” the program is active in building, connecting, and supporting project teams. This experience is a fantastic opportunity to learn from librarians and fellow interns alike.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
I was intrigued by the fact that since 1870 the Library has been able to grow its collections through a seemingly small detail of copyright law: the mandatory deposit of a copy of an original work to the U.S. Copyright Office. This easily overlooked formality became key to building the largest law library in the world, and I wanted to learn more about how things worked within the institution itself. How does an institution (the sheer range of vital resources which boggles the mind) understand and organize its collections? How does it work to make them available to legal scholarship and broader civic use?
Back in my undergraduate days, I had found that answering many of the questions I had about law required gaining access to legal research databases that were largely exclusive and subscription-based—as well as difficult to navigate without extensive training. Yet the drive to understand law and legal history is not a novel or exclusive one. We’re all shaped by the law; understanding it empowers us. Thus, I was excited to work with the Library to help make its robust collections more accessible to a wider audience. In this way, people can keep innovating, keep depositing their discoveries, and keep the Library—and the country—flourishing.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?
I find it fascinating that the Law Library’s collection is constantly evolving—not merely in the sense of expanding its scope of operations, but also in terms of how people’s ceaseless innovation provides the driving force making these collections available and more accessible. We need look no further than the Law Library’s recent celebration of Law Day (May 1) with a panel discussion titled “Justice Through the Perspective of an Eyewitness Artist” in celebration of the exhibition on courtroom illustrations, called “Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustrations,” to appreciate this creativity. At any point in time, the Library is working on myriad creative projects aimed at making “black-letter law” a language that we can better understand and translate into our daily interactions.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
While at St. Andrews, I learned to play the Scottish bagpipe. I also used to be a competitive dressage rider.