Guest Post: Daniel Kelly on Raven Award Experience, 2022

Daniel Kelly received the 2022 Ronald Raven Annual Award, a scholarship providing a tuition stipend and a semester-long internship in the Wayne State University Archives. At the end of his internship, Daniel wrote this summary of his experience.

In March 2022, I received the Ronald Raven Award, which included a tuition stipend and an internship at the Wayne State University Archives in the Walter P. Reuther Library. The Raven Award, funded by Wayne State alumnus Ronald Raven, seemed like an exciting opportunity to gain real-world, hands-on archival experience under the direction of an experienced archivist. In May, Taylor Henning, the university archivist under whom I was working, offered me the chance to renew the award for the Fall semester, and I gratefully accepted.

I received my own collection to process from start to finish. This enabled me to gain experience processing archival collections while simultaneously making a collection from the University Archives accessible to researchers. I was assigned the H. Merrill Jackson Papers. In the beginning, I was unfamiliar with Jackson and his career. Before beginning processing, I read the case file for the collection, Jackson’s biographical file in the Reuther, and researched Jackson online. This helped me prepare to work with his papers.

H. Merrill Jackson was a social scientist who had an academic career from the 1950s through the 1990s. Jackson was born on October 30, 1924, in Cần Thơ, Vietnam where he lived until he moved to the United States at the age of nineteen. Jackson received his BA from Houghton College, his MA in Linguistics from Cornell University, and in 1963, his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan. He also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, and was fluent in English, French, and Vietnamese.

In 1953 Jackson conducted research on Vietnamese and African communities while abroad in Paris and Vietnam. In the 1960s, Jackson was a lecturer at Harvard University. From 1969-1970 he performed fieldwork in West Africa and the Caribbean and was a research fellow at the University of Ghana. Jackson joined the faculty at Wayne State in 1970 and taught at Monteith College in the Science of Society Division and the School of Social Work. He continued to teach at Wayne State University until his retirement.

Jackson’s research interests included social conflict and social change, ethnic groups in the United States, race relations in the United States, and peasant society in Vietnam. Jackson authored numerous papers on social change, social structure, and social theory. He had a lifelong research interest in Vietnam. In the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote about the Vietnamese language and society. In the late 1970s, he wrote about the Vietnam War, and in the 1980s he discussed Vietnam as a post-conflict society. Jackson also had an interest in the Black Power movement, and some of his work focused on the topic. Towards the end of his life, Jackson worked on a manuscript on relational theory. He also authored papers on linguistics, religion, and comparative studies on values and cultural identity. For the last five years of his life, he lived in Hutchinson, Kansas, and he passed away on July 16, 1998.

This was my first time processing a collection on my own. Before beginning this internship, I had completed archival courses in which we discussed processing and archival theory. I also assisted the archivist at the Detroit Sound Conservancy in processing the collections there. Even though I had some processing background, the prospect of processing a collection on my own was somewhat daunting. Taylor walked me through the basics, and we discussed different processing methods and aspects of archival theory. In consultation with Taylor, I developed a processing plan, which was a learning experience for me.

One lesson I learned was the importance of maintaining the original order of a collection. Initially, from my observation, there did not seem to be an order to the collection. Consequently, my original processing plan called for reordering the collection based on topic or chronological order. Taylor discussed with me that archivists should maintain original order as a matter of best practice in order to preserve the context and meaning of the records as a whole. During processing, I began to realize that there was meaning behind the collection’s original order as the papers began with Jackson’s early career and ended with his post-retirement work on relational theory.

The discussions I had with Taylor and other Reuther archivists in many ways helped to reinforce aspects of archival theory that had been discussed in my classes. To me, being able to take what I had learned and turn that knowledge towards a practical application was the most beneficial part of the internship. Receiving the Raven Award and its internship in the University Archives was an excellent learning opportunity, and I appreciate that Taylor took the time to guide me through archival processing, while at the same time, allowing me to process the collection myself, make my own discoveries, and build the skills necessary for archival work.

You can view the completed finding aid for the H. Merrill Jackson Papers here. For more information about the Ronald Raven Award, please visit our Scholarships page.