Behind the Scenes: Caring for Collections on the Go

The following is an interview with Georgia Joseph, Circulation Technician in the Prints & Photographs Division.

Melissa: Thanks for agreeing to an interview, Georgia. We’re excited to learn more about your work. Could you start off by telling us a little bit about your background, and how you came to work in the Prints & Photographs Division?

Georgia Joseph in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room

Georgia with a drawer of stereograph cards before the reading room opened to researchers. Staff photograph, 2021.

Georgia: I started working at the Library of Congress in 1987, right out of high school on a work study program as a library aide/clerk in Photodup. That was the office that handled patron reproduction requests — we call it Duplication Services now. Over the years I moved up positions in Photodup, so I was a library aide/clerk for awhile, then a library technician/printer. In about 1991, while I was still working for Photodup, I got a new position title: searcher for visual materials. That meant I worked closely with the Prints & Photographs Division for about thirty years, looking for the images researchers wanted printed or scanned.

Just before COVID hit, I applied for the circulation technician job in Prints & Photographs and wasn’t sure if it would be possible for the Library to go forward with filling the position (or any new positions) – but I got invited for an interview and got the job. This position is really giving me an opportunity to grow.

Melissa: What are your primary responsibilities in P&P?

Georgia: My biggest responsibility is tracking the movement of the collections, within and outside the division. This involves dealing with loans to outside institutions for their exhibitions, bringing materials to and from Conservation when they are getting treatment, handling materials that are coming and going from off-site storage, managing materials that are requested for Duplication Services orders, and also retrieving and refiling materials that patrons look at in the reading room.

I picked up this drawing by Richard Morris Hunt from Conservation after they put the image back in the frame after being out on loan. I had to get someone to help me pick it up because it was big.

Marble House, William Kissam Vanderbilt house (Newport, Rhode Island). West (entrance) elevation. Rendering. Drawing by Richard Morris Hunt, between 1888 and 1892. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.58361

Marble House, William Kissam Vanderbilt house (Newport, Rhode Island). West (entrance) elevation. Rendering. Drawing by Richard Morris Hunt, between 1888 and 1892. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.58361

When I first started this position in August, most of the reference staff were teleworking full time, so I was also able to help my colleagues with reference questions by checking materials on site. That enabled P&P to continue to offer researchers assistance throughout the pandemic.

Melissa: Reference staff have been so grateful to you and our other colleagues for your help in particular with those reference requests! Is there a project you’ve been working on that you’d also like to talk about?

Georgia: One project I’ve been working on is to input location information in catalog records for file prints from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (FSA/OWI) collection. I recently updated the catalog records with the location of the file print for the two images below (indicated by “Other Number” in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog record), so we can easily find the physical prints in the file cabinets in our reading room.

<em>Traffic on Fifth Avenue approaching 57th Street on a summer afternoon. New York City. </em>Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1939. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b33834

Traffic on Fifth Avenue approaching 57th Street on a summer afternoon. New York City. Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1939. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b33834

Marker on Long Trail, Eden Mills, Vermont. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, 1937. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a08807

Marker on Long Trail, Eden Mills, Vermont. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, 1937. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a08807

This famous “Migrant Mother” photo from the FSA/OWI collection also sticks with me because I got to meet the great-grandson of one of the kids in this image. He told me that one of the kids in the photo was his great-grandma.

Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age 32. By Dorothea Lange, 1936. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.50236

Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age 32. By Dorothea Lange, 1936. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.50236

I enjoy working with the collections, and I love what I do. I’m lucky because I’ve never dreaded my work, and I learn new things about the collections all the time.

Learn More:

“A step out of and beyond nature”: Picturing the Moon

The following is a guest post by Micah Messenheimer, Curator of Photography, Prints & Photographs Division. This week’s anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing provides a perfect opportunity to explore our holdings of lunar photography in the Prints & Photographs Division. From the medium’s beginnings, the moon fascinated photographers as both a subject of […]