Leigh Gialanella '15 at the Oneida Community Mansion House.

Leigh Gialanella ’15 will be continuing along the path that she started at Hamilton by pursuing master’s degrees at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor this fall. Gialanella, a history major with dual Hispanic studies and anthropology minors, hopes through her studies to specialize in Archives and Records Management (ARM) and Preservation of Information (PI).

The University of Michigan’s ARM specialization prepares students through relevant coursework to effectively organize information, create digital libraries, and manage records for private and public institutions. A specialization in PI provides students with skills relating to the digitization of records and information, the facilities and environmental-controls necessary for physical preservation and data curation. 

During her first two years at Hamilton, Gialanella said she was unsure of her professional aspirations, and became occupied with the search for disciplines which incorporated her love of history into a potential career. “Not wanting to venture into academia, I participated in two archaeological field schools and entertained thoughts of obtaining an internship in policy research, before stumbling upon special collections librarianship,” she said.

about leigh gialanella '15

Major: History

Minors: Hispanic Studies and Anthropology

Hometown: Albany, N.Y.

High School: Albany High School

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With assistance from Burke Library’s Director and Curator of Special Collections and Archives Christian Goodwillie, Gialanella was last summer responsible for cataloging around 4,000 rare books housed at the Oneida Community Mansion House historic site. “This experience taught me that I enjoy handling rare books, reading marginalia, and laughing at nineteenth-century spelling mistakes and drawings,” she remarked.

Since that time, Gialanella has worked to digitize manuscripts related to nineteenth-century biblical scholar and Hamilton College alumnus Edward Robinson, and this summer is completing a digital collection for the Oneida Community library. She expressed particular satisfaction with the experience of working with historical publications and documents, saying that “most collections contain items that provide exciting, and often amusing insight into their original owners or creators.”

Though interested in all methods of preservation, Gialanella is especially interested in digitization, citing a desire to work in special collections with a specialization in digital methods of information management and preservation. “Although I’d love to learn physical methods of conservation,” she said, “there are other, more lasting ways of preserving information that need to be explored and utilized for maximum documentation of the past.”

Special collections work, however, is a highly competitive practice, and one in which Gialanella claims individuals must be open to work in other, related fields while establishing themselves. With graduate school between her and an eventual career, though, Gialanella said that she is looking forward to “welcoming new experiences at the University of Michigan,” and in particular to joining the student chapter of the Society for American Archivists.

“Now,” she concluded “in what has been dubbed the Information Age, demand is increasing for new means of organizing, accessing, and preserving information… I would like to devote my life to preserving these collections for future access by historians, scholars, and cultural heritage personnel.”

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