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Leading the Libraries' Specialized Collections: An introduction to Elisabeth Kaplan

Leading Special CollectionsElisabeth (Beth) Kaplan joined the GW Libraries this summer as the new associate university librarian for special collections, archives, and the Global Resources Center. A Distinguished Fellow with the Society of American Archivists, Beth brings extensive experience in university archives and special collections as well as a passion for bringing history alive through primary sources. A prolific author, Beth has published numerous articles on topics such as visual literacy in archives, construction of ethnic identity through archives, and American Jewish history. Her forthcoming book is The Oxford Guide to Archival Research.

Q: What made you choose to work in archives as a career?
A: As a history student at the University of Massachusetts, I had one of those magical connections with a faculty member that introduced me to a whole world I didn’t know existed. I was working with an anthropologist researching trains and canals in history. My job was to search major rare book collections and I was reading works no one had ever seen before; some of the pages were uncut. It was an exciting way to interact with history.

Q: As co-author of the forthcoming Oxford Guide to Archival Research, what advice do you have for students starting out with archival research?
A: Start by talking to the collection librarian or archivist. They are the expert on that collection and are your best resource to get started. Archivists and librarians can help you to define your research topic and find sources that are local and available to you.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your role at the GW Libraries?
A: What first impressed me with GW Libraries is the sense of excitement here. It feels like an institution with a real mission to grow and expand, and it’s thrilling to be part of that. There is a lot of potential in GW’s specialized collections; I’m really looking forward to increasing access to the rich materials housed at GW and collaborating with collections around the city and the world.

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