Student Snippets


Massachusetts State Archives Field Trip

Another guest blog by current student, Sarah Nafis. Sarah is in her final year of the dual Archives/History (MS/MA) program. Since moving to Boston, she's exploring the city one restaurant at a time and has learned to embrace the quirks of public transportation.

This semester I'm taking Government Archives as one of my electives. The class focuses on government archives at the local, state, and national levels and covers topics such as legal responsibilities, relationship between the different branches of government, accessibility, and challenges facing government archives. In addition to the course readings and discussion, we also have the opportunity to meet with guest speakers and visit a couple of government archives. And field trips are just as much fun in graduate school as they were in elementary school.

Our class was fortunate enough to be given a personal tour of the Massachusetts State Archives (located just around the corner from the JFK Library and Museum) by the Executive Director, Michael Comeau. We spent just under 3 hours on site and I probably could have stayed for another couple of hours. The entire tour was fascinating and it was the perfect mix of Massachusetts history, politics, and archives.

 We started off the tour in the Commonwealth Museum with a brief overview of Massachusetts history and the development of the Archives and the records it holds.  Some of the most interesting records held by the Archives can be seen in the Treasures Gallery. Here visitors can see the original 1629 Charter of Massachusetts Bay, 1691 Charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1780), and one of the original 14 copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights!

After the Treasures Gallery, we focused on the Archives in greater depth. We met with a couple of staff members (including a recent SLIS alumna!) to discuss the reading room, research requests, and digitization efforts. We also got a tour of one of the vaults and the Records Center. It's impossible to explain the size and scale of the Records Center, but try to imagine row after row of 3-story shelves filled with boxes, and think even bigger! And the Records Center doesn't even house the permanent collections. The Archives is working on converting some of the Records Center into another vault since the Archives is almost at full capacity.

I really enjoyed speaking with Michael and other staff members about the challenges and exciting opportunities facing government archives. It added another dimension to our class discussion and assignments and was an overall amazing experience.

Stay tuned for a post about our upcoming visit to the JFK Library and Museum in a couple of weeks