This March, we’re celebrating the arrival of archivist Magee Lawhorn, who is taking on the new role of Research Manager/Archivist to assist in the organizing of its 30 years of archives, as part of our 30th year anniversary campaign.
Tell us a bit about the role of an archivist? What led you to pursue this field? What’s the most intriguing thing you’ve ever encountered?
The role of an archivist is to preserve and organize materials of historic importance. I decided to pursue this career because of the time I spent as an archaeologists, as I excavated more and more I become invested in the life cycle of artifacts. Once I did discover in a collection that someone was writing a book about the first Chinese American Boy Scout troop in America, but it was never published since the author passed away.
You’ve worked at the Yale-China Association and the Museum of Chinese in America. What are the ways that curators, artists, and scholars are making meaning from their holdings?
Professionals in these fields are trying to create teachable moments for people of all ages. Artifacts, collections, and visual art all have a story to tell. Usually these stories are important, and educate a community about where they have been and where they have the potential to go. The past can be an awe-inspiring tool. Thus professionals are trying to find ways to make their work more accessible either through technology or developing interactive programs.
You grew up here, went away for school, and are now back. How has New Haven changed in the interim?
I never really spent much time when I was younger in New Haven. However, in the years that I have been back in CT I have really explored the city and seen new efforts to revitalize the downtown as a hub reminiscent of its heydays. Especially as a foodie, I have enjoyed all of the fantastic restaurants and diversity of cuisines that can be had in one place.
What has surprised you about Artspace’s history so far?
Usually I have worked with collections that have not well maintained. In the case of Artspace I was surprised of the condition of the materials, and how well they had been cared for over the years. Also to my surprise during the “Untitled Space” years there is a plethora of materials saved, which for most organizations would be difficult to accrue without a physical space to hold materials. Artspace’s ability to capture so much of personal history during its homeless period speaks volumes about its resilience.
You are the vocalist for Big Bear Tree. How did the band form, and what’s next for the group/for you?
The band formed a three years ago, as a couple musicians looking for a place to explore original music separate from their other cover band gigs. Currently the band is recording a demo album, working on a tiny desk video, and trying to make it onto the festival circuits.
Catch Magee singing with her band on March 25th, 8 pm at the Funky Monkey in Cheshire, CT or listen here.