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Angela McClendon Ossar

February 25, 2009

I became UTSA’s first University Archivist in September 2008. In my job, I’m responsible for collecting, preserving, and providing access to the records of UTSA’s history and development. For such a young university –- UTSA was established in 1969; classes began in 1973 –- that history is already richly interesting. The University has seen extraordinary expansion and change in its 40 years, and it’s wonderful to be able to chart that growth through records.

Before coming to UTSA, I earned my MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was inspired to go to library school for a number of reasons, but foremost among them was how much I’d enjoyed volunteering at the Austin History Center. As a volunteer, I got to listen to oral history interviews and track down proper spellings of Austin places, names, events, etc. through what I liked to call my “detective work.”

While studying at UNC, I held a number of different positions: Graduate Assistant at North Carolina State University (I worked at the reference desk of the main library); Graduate Assistant for Dr. Helen Tibbo, working on the Mellon-Funded Archival Metrics project; Research Assistant at UNC’s Southern Historical Collection and Southern Oral History Program; and Technical Services Intern at Duke University’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, & Marketing History. Those jobs gave me a wide variety of experience in public and technical services, and I enjoyed nothing more than getting my hands dirty in archival collections. My first big processing job was the papers of writer and Macy’s ad copywriter Margaret Fishback, a collection that took several months to process and was utterly fascinating. When asked what historical figure I’d most love to meet, I can honestly answer: Margaret Fishback.

Having done so much behind-the-scenes work in my grad school jobs, I didn’t relish the idea of answering reference questions or teaching classes at UTSA (student-teaching 11th grade English in college had been utterly traumatic), but those two things have become the best parts of my job. I consider most archival research to be detective work, and that’s how I like to present it to the students I get to teach in bibliographic instruction classes. I love taking them through “The Case of the Tower Naming Contest,” in which we try to prove or disprove a now-mayoral-candidate’s claim that her aunt named the Tower of the Americas through a contest. One thing I never seemed to accomplish as a student teacher was getting my students as excited about English as I was. So, it’s enormously gratifying to be able to show college students today that archival research really is very exciting. There’s nothing cooler than finding that “a-ha!” piece of evidence.

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