Student Spotlight: Azariah Moore

Front door of department with sign on wall that says University Archives and Special Collections

As a part of the Student Spotlight series, Azariah Moore reflects on her experiences working as a student researcher for the Unearthing Towson’s History Project, 2023-24.

What drew you to work in the Towson Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA)? 

I was very drawn to working in the university archives when I read about the Unearthing Towson’s History Project that is housed here. I was super interested by the chance to learn more about college life for Black students. The opportunity to actually speak with them was even more exciting. I knew I had to apply and thankfully I received the research assistant position for the project.  

What were your first impressions of SCUA? 

My first impressions of the Towson Archives were all because I had no idea of what working in the archives meant. When I first arrived, I was very nervous but also really excited to start learning. After having a briefing, and being shown the collections space of the archives, I was blown away. I almost felt that I would not be able to navigate the archives since there is so much information within this office. In some senses, I was having imposter syndrome when I first started working. I was unsure that I was going to be able to do what was needed.

When I was actually left to play around with all of the sources and find my way, I was having a lot of fun figuring it out. I remember my first day my coworker and I grabbed so many of the big Towerlight books and just flipped through them and shared what we found. Overall, my impressions of the archives could be summed up by saying I was fascinated but overwhelmed at the same time.  

How have your perceptions of the archives changed since working here?

Now that I have worked here for a few months, my perception has drastically changed. Whenever I come to work, I learn something new, and I still have that fascination for so many of the people I have met and the knowledge I have gained. I now feel very confident in my ability to efficiently navigate the archives and fulfill the requirements of being a research assistant. Over time, with the help of SCUA staff, navigating the collections space has become easier and easier. It is actually now one of my favorite parts of the job. I love grabbing a box and just reading the folders. Each one holds so much information that I would never know any other way. Now, my perceptions of the archives have shifted to the feeling that this is a place where I can come to grow myself and learn so much about how Towson was able to become the school that I have gotten to know.  

What do you wish you had known earlier on? 

Earlier on I wish I had known how to properly make use of the resources that were provided to me. Of course, figuring things out takes time, but I think in the beginning of my time I was not using the collections space and the websites to their fullest potential. I found it challenging simply because it was new to me, and I was unaware of how to make it work for me. After some time, I talked to my coworker about this, and she was able to assist me. I also talked to SCUA staff about how to do certain things, that in turn allowed me to better understand what my next steps should be.  

What suggestions do you have for other students conducting their own research in the archives for the first time? 

My suggestion is not to be scared to ask for help! The archives can be hard to navigate for the very first time and the people here are super knowledgeable and willing to help. It can save you so much time wondering how to do something correctly. Another suggestion I have is to be sure that you are reading things in depth. A strong attention to detail is a must when researching in the archives. Sometimes a quick skim over a document will not tell you everything you need to know, or you might miss something. A lot of my time has been spent reading the small text on a memorandum or reading the meeting notes from the president’s office, but a lot of times those types of places is where you’ll find the most eye-opening information!

How comfortable do you feel working in the archives given this experience? What skills do you think you will take away from the experience?

I feel that after working here for a little over five months, I feel very comfortable working in the archives. I have learned so much about not just Towson, but real people, which I think is an invaluable experience and opportunity. This has been a time of professional growth for me, and I believe it stems from the archives. I have learned a lot about working in an office setting, which I had never done before. I have been able to grow my professionalism, which has been really important as I near my graduation. Also, my interpersonal skills have grown so much since I arrived. I have been able to speak with people from all walks of life, and understanding how to navigate that and present myself has been important. I think all of these skills are foundational skills that I will need in any future pathway, and I am very thankful that I was given the chance to have this opportunity.  

Do you have any suggestions for SCUA staff for working with student researchers in the future?

I think checking in with student researchers, maybe once a week, is something I would suggest for SCUA staff. I have loved when I had check ins with staff and was able to bounce ideas and talk about what we are respectively working on. It allows students to feel more comfortable talking with staff as well as allowing time for feedback. Making this something more concrete would be a great idea, I think.  


My Research Process

For me, my archival research process differs when I am looking into a single person versus an initiative that took place in the past. For both of these topics, I always start my search with the Digital Collections webpage. This is a great search tool to help locate some already digitalized material that can help you learn more about what you are researching. Most of the time the types of documents in there are The Towerlight, yearbooks, and university catalogs. These types of sources are excellent for getting a grasp on what college life was like back then, which can in turn strengthen your research. Additionally, going through some of The Towerlight’s weekly newspapers around the time you are looking into is a great way to further your knowledge of Towson in the past.

Now, when it comes to a single person, after this I will go to Google and search their name up in a variety of searches in attempts to find out what they are currently doing. This can help me better formulate my questions for an oral history. I also will go to Zotero, the database we use for keeping documents, to check tags that may be related to this person and learn some more background information. This process takes time as I am working to read and learn about their time at Towson and truly understand the politics that were at play during this time. Another resource I check is ArchiveSpace which highlights any documents that we have in the collections space with the specific topic. After this process, once I feel confident that my research is comprehensive and lengthy, I will then reach out to the participant.

On the other hand, when I am researching something broader, such as an initiative or a certain group of people, this research process is a little lengthier. For the most part, I conduct the same steps as when it comes to a single person’s research except a lot more time is spent reading documents from the collections space. I will spend a lot of time reading Provost records or President’s Staff Meeting Notes or anything that is relevant to what I am currently researching. This helps me understand the administrative standpoint on the topic, not only students. The meeting minutes also often talk about new initiatives and programs in these records, so they are vital to my research. I’d like to add that even when researching one person, you should also conduct this type of research. Since I have researched many people from the same time periods, only one in-depth look at these materials has been needed, but the knowledge and context it has given me has been extremely helpful.

But moving on, once I feel that I have looked at these materials enough and have a well-rounded understanding of what I am speaking about, I will then work on the next steps of my project whether that be reaching out to key people in the programs, writing a blog post, etc. The key for an in-depth archival research is to really take your time to read materials and fully understand what they are saying so that you can present it in an intellectual way.  

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