Staff Profile: Mary Williford, Business Services Coordinator

What do you do for tMary1he Southern Historical Collection?

As Business Services Coordinator, I do a little bit of everything to keep us a well-oiled machine. One workday can involve accessioning donations, ordering lunch for visitors, crunching a bit of data, and developing publicity materials for community archives projects.



What did you do before joining the Southern Historical Collection?

My passion is for anything where the public comes into contact with history. I have worked with some truly fabulous museums, historic sites, community groups, and archives in central and eastern North Carolina and no matter where I was, the SHC was an important resource.

But, to keep things interesting, I have tried to do just about everything once. I can operate an autoclave, tidy up HTML, and develop educational activities for children while you wait. If it needs doing, I will get to it or learn how!

How did you get into this line of work?

When I was an undergraduate American Studies student, I had wonderful opportunities to work in the Southern Folklife Collection and the Carolina Digital Library and Archives (now the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center). Even though my work involved less-than-glamorous spreadsheets or old cassette tapes, I learned how valuable and lively these materials really are, and how every little thing we do here in Wilson Library contributes to an understanding of Southern history and culture.

What do you like about your job?

I get to talk to so many different people, from folks following the first threads of their family history to world-renowned scholars. I am always surprised by what materials people donate and the different ways our visitors use these materials. One person may use a diary collection to research divorce in 1790s Louisiana, while another person uses that same collection to learn about regional slang. There really is no telling what lives our collections will take on.

What are some new and exciting projects on the horizon?

I am so pleased to be here at a time when we are really concentrating our efforts on community partnerships and public outreach. Right now, I am working on a lot of new materials to help the public better understand what we do and how they can get involved. When I tell people I work in an archive, I get a lot of “I’d love to see all the old stuff, but I don’t think I’m allowed to” responses. Totally untrue! We have millions upon millions of items and we want you to put them to good use and tell us what they mean to you!

What do you do when you are not in the SHC?Mary2

I am all about day trips: state parks, aquariums, zoos, gardens, museums, and festivals. (Fun fact: the world’s largest collection of waterfowl is a mere two hours from Chapel Hill, and it is open to the public. And yes, they let you feed the birds.) If I am stuck indoors, chances are I have the Twilight Zone on while I bake and cuddle with my beloved parrot, Benito.

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