This blog post was written by Summer 2022 Dowdy Intern Tesia Juraschek.
My name is Tesia Juraschek, and I am a rising second-year museum studies student. This summer, I was given the amazing opportunity as a Dowdy intern to work in conjunction with the Poage Legislative Library and the Riley Digitization Center to gain experience in digitization. I am passionate about archives and wanted to learn this new skill set, because I see digitization as a critical step in bringing archival collections to a wider audience and into the modern age. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity and think that I have a greater understanding of the digitization and legislative process.
I completed a variety of tasks throughout my internship, but I primarily worked with the Chet Edwards audio/visual materials. In all, I reviewed 103 VHS tapes from the Chet Edwards papers. These tapes were vaguely labeled, so my task was to determine their contents and relation to the overall collection. The tapes varied in their content and length. Some were short, while others were a few hours in length. Some contained as little content as a campaign ad or brief news segment; others housed an entire debate between Edwards and a political opponent. I will admit that when I started, I did not understand the full scope of this task, but now I appreciate its importance. Reviewing these tapes taught me that even in a processed collection, there can still be unknown content. While it might be clear what can be found in a paper-based collection, audio/visual materials can hold a greater amount of mystery and surprise.
When digitizing the newsletters of Representatives Marvin Leath, John Dowdy, and Sam Hall, and the campaign ads of Chet Edwards, I learned that the digitization process can be extremely expensive and intensive. To digitize the newsletters, I worked with a state-of-the-art Zeutschel scanner worth thousands of dollars. For the campaign ads, there were multiple different units required to capture the video and audio. I realized that many smaller archives do not have these resources or the funds to purchase them which is likely a reason why they do not host digital collections. Additionally, this experience revealed to me how digitization is more complicated than I originally thought. I thought the digitization of tapes would be similar to burning a disc, but I learned at the Riley Digitization Center that great care is taken to ensure that everything within a tape is the best quality possible before it is preserved in a digital format.
Finally, I learned about the legislative process. While this does not directly pertain to my future occupation (as far as I currently know), it does impact how I will understand our government and the campaign process in the future. One of my favorite things to encounter on the Chet Edwards tapes were the House floor speeches. I had never watched floor speeches before and never understood what went into promoting and voting for a bill. Seeing this process taught me the complexities around every bill that is passed. Similarly, I now understand that when presented in campaign attack ads, bill voting records can be misleading. Often an opponent simply states that a candidate voted against an important bill, but there are frequently many nuances to their vote; they may have considered the approach of the bill wrong, or there might have been an issue in the bill that could hurt more people. When an attack ad simply states that a candidate voted against a “great” bill, candidates can falsely appear as uncaring. I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to observe both floor speeches and campaign ads as the understanding gained from comparing each will help me to be a more informed and thoughtful voter in the future.
Ultimately, I am tremendously grateful to have had this opportunity to work with the Poage Legislative Library and the Riley Digitization Center. I have gained a new understanding of the digitization process and feel more prepared to work in an archival digitization capacity in the future. I am also thankful for the deeper understanding of the complexities within our government and have a greater respect and admiration for those who take the time to work within our government to better the lives of those they represent.