@ArchiveReynolda: Meet Bari Helms, Archivist

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@ArchiveReynolda: Meet Bari Helms, Archivist

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Bari Helms joined the Museum in 2014 from the Library of Virginia, where she started the institution’s blog Out of the Box. She holds a Masters in Library Science  from University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Duke University. She is originally from Concord, NC and likes her coffee with lots of cream and a little sugar. Follow Bari on Twitter at @ArchiveReynolda.

In your career, how would you describe the changes/evolution in the field of archives?

I think for a lot of people, the word “archives” -  if it conjures up anything - it’s an image of a dark, dusty room of full of shelves holding fragile volumes and boxes that can only be accessed by a privileged few. In reality, we actually do want people to visit and use our collections. It’s not just about preserving the old stuff anymore, archives as a profession is focusing more and more on customer service and the sharing of information. Constantly changing technologies are causing archivists to be adaptive and evolve, but those same technologies allow for greater access to our collections through digitized records and, most importantly, allow us to foster user participation and interactions in ways we never could in the past.

Where do we see Reynolda House in this trend?

Reynolda House has created a wonderful experience for virtual visitors to view its art and historic house collections through the digital wing. I want to expand this experience for our visitors to provide access to our archival collections as well. In addition to the historic photographs already available, I want the digital wing to include manuscript items from the Reynolds Family Papers. This presents a unique opportunity for visitors to really get to know the people who lived at Reynolda. By getting these documents online we complicate the lives of the Reynolds family, and therefore make them human. Also, utilizing various social media platforms allows us to share and interact with unlimited and unpredictable groups of people.

What attracted you to come and work at Reynolda?

I grew up in North Carolina, and a particular area of interest for me is the story of the post-Civil War industrialization of the South and the cultural, political, and economic changes that came with it. Tobacco, the Reynolds family, and Reynolda House are all part of that story.

When did you know you wanted to be an archivist?

What pushed me to become an archivist was my love of history and nosy nature. I’ve always been curious about the backstories of a person or place. While an undergraduate at Duke University, I landed an internship in the university’s special collections, and when I found out I could read old letters and diaries all day as a career, I was hooked.

Are archives/archivists represented in pop culture?

Funnily enough, the topic of my master’s thesis was archivists on film. Archivists are pretty rare in movies and television, and when they are portrayed tend to be a mashup of librarian/archivist/museum curator. There really aren’t any accurate portrayals of an archivist (too many dusty eccentrics hoarding materials), but some fun ones are Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Abigail Chase in National Treasure, and Evelyn O’Connel from The Mummy.

Are there any archivist blogs/influencers that you follow?

The National Archives blogs
ArchivesNext blog

Stay tuned! Bari will be writing a monthly blog series called @ArchiveReynolda to share the riveting stories from the Reynolda Archives.

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