This blog entry is part of a series introducing LVA employees and exploring what they do day-to-day. If you are interested in reading more like this, entries in the series are collected under the tag 7 Questions. Other entries discussing the internal work of the Library of Virginia are filed under the category The Stacks.
What is your background?
I was born and raised in Hialeah, Florida (a suburb of Miami). When I was young my family would take summer vacations to states throughout the southeastern US, including Virginia. This was how I became obsessed with history, Virginia, and in particular, Colonial Williamsburg. After a couple of years as an undergrad at Florida State University (FSU), the school administration and I came to some irreconcilable differences regarding my grades. With no real plan, I moved to Williamsburg where I eventually worked as a waiter at Chowning’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg.
While working there I returned to school and graduated from Christopher Newport University (then College) with a BA in history. Just to get even with FSU, I applied to and was accepted into graduate school in the history department there, eventually receiving my MA in history, with a concentration in US Civil War. While I was in grad school at FSU I worked in the university library, first as a student assistant and then as a para-professional in collection development. Later, while still in grad school, I worked for three years as a library technical assistant in the small research library at the Tall Timbers Research Station, a biological field station on the Florida-Georgia border, north of Tallahassee.
Desiring a career in history and knowing that Virginia is ground zero for American history I returned and settled in the Fan in Richmond. Shortly afterwards, in 1997 I landed a job working in the circulation department in the newly-opened Library of Virginia building where we are now. A year and a half later, I was hired as a local records archivist, serving in that position from 1999 until 2007.
Eddie in his Colonial Williamsburg days.
It was during this time that I was accepted into library school at Rutgers University, taking an MLIS degree in 2009, with a concentration in digital libraries. In 2007, I accepted a position as the university archivist at Florida State University, serving at that post until I returned to Virginia in 2013. In 2016, I was fortunate enough to be hired by the Library of Virginia as a consulting archivist for the Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) and the rest, as they say, is history.
How do you explain what you do to others?
I usually say that I travel around the Commonwealth of Virginia assisting circuit court clerks with the conservation/preservation of their records. If the explanation gets a little deeper, I try to clear up misconceptions about what makes up the “court records” held in circuit court clerks’ offices. In the oldie days, the courthouses were the center of power for localities and were responsible for the administration of the local government. When I explain that I help with the preservation of court records, the persons that I am talking to are usually imagining civil and criminal lawsuits or casefiles, and not the bulk of the other types of records found in courthouses. I like to say that local records are the foundation on which social history is constructed. Local government records tell the story of the common people who didn’t leave diaries or a cache of correspondences, and in many instances might not have even been able to read or write. For many, their stories can only be told, not from their own words, but from the paper trail left in local records (if they survive). I like to say that, if a person was born in a locality, if they married, if they owned property, if they had children, if they had a license or a bond, if they were involved in legal matters (civil or criminal), if they died there, they are bound to turn up in the courthouse records. For many of the common people this is the only way that we get a sense of who they were. So, it is more than just the conservation/preservation of casefiles.
Additionally, I share my CCRP program consulting duties with my colleague, Tracy Harter, and we have divided the state in half (more or less). Basically, the localities in my region run along the bottom of the state, to as far west as Lee County, on the Tennessee and Kentucky borders, then north (east) to Craig County and then straight across to the ancient Eastern Shore counties of Accomack and Northampton, and then south to the city of Chesapeake, and everything in between and down to the North Carolina border. Tracy’s region is everything north of that, including the city of Richmond.
Have you held other positions at the Library? If so, what?
Yes, first in circulation and then as a processing archivist in local records services. I knew that I wanted a position in the archives at the Library of Virginia and my work in circulation was the foot in the door for me. My position as a local records processing archivist set me up nicely for the post I hold now, as a CCRP consulting archivist.
How has technology affected your current job?
For me, not so much. In my role as a CCRP consulting archivist, my work concerns the conservation and preservation of pre-1913 circuit court records. We try to post information regarding our visits to the courthouses on the Library of Virginia’s social media outlets, where they have been well received.
Describe your best day at the Library of Virginia.
I love my job. For me the visits to the clerks’ offices are adventures. I’m very fortunate to be able to immerse myself in the court records of the most historical places in the nation. They are all great days, but a “best day” I suppose is when old records are discovered in hiding places (or archival storage areas) that I was not aware of, such as recently in the Grayson County Courthouse basement and the Giles County Courthouse attic. But, whether it is my routine visits to Southwest Virginia, or to Southside Virginia, or to the Eastern Shore (and everything in between), I love my job and understand that I am very fortunate to be able to do what I do.
What was your first paid job?
My father was an electrical contractor in south Florida and I usually worked, essentially as a laborer for him every summer when I was in school. My first paid position outside of working for my father was one summer job as the alcohol storeroom attendant at the Sonesta Beach Hotel (“the Rock” to locals) on Key Biscayne in Miami.
What would people be surprised to find out about you?
My fascination with Williamsburg continues to this day and I still live there, commuting to and from the Library of Virginia in Richmond every day. I am very lucky to do what I do for a living and to live where I live.