Knowledge River in the Field

The Knowledge River strives to present Cohort members with graduate assistantships and internships that fit each member's interest while providing them with hands-on experience. Below are just a couple of examples of the different projects that Cohort members have participated in. Please check back regularly for updates. 

Interview with Knowledge River's Carl Murdock

Carl Murdock, a member of the Knowledge River Cohort 14, is in his second year in the MLIS degree program at the University of Arizona where he has been dedicated to working with Dr. Richard Chabran on the Knowledge River Mukurtu site. He is also an employee with Pima County Public Libraries. Carl also holds the distinction of being a former Fulbright Fellow and conducted doctoral research in Chile. When he is not working hard in the field of LIS, Carl is known for his innovative music mixes. He recently sat down to tell us about his summer internship at the Arizona Historical Society. 

KR: Where did you conduct your summer internship? 

CM:I did my internship at the Arizona Historical Society (AHS), largely as a result of doing some work in the archive for a class in my first semester here at the School of Information.  I enjoyed what I did there enough to ask for more. 

In the Fall of 2015 one of my classes took me into the AHS to do some research and cataloging work as part of a “service learning” component.  I loved the experience of being back in an archival setting for the first time in two decades, and expressed that fact clearly and frequently while I was at the AHS.  I began to chat regularly with the staff there, and when it was time to consider places where I might do my internship, everyone thought I should do more with the AHS.

KR: Could you tell us about your responsibilities there?

CM: Since I work regularly with the public in my capacity as a Library Associate with Pima County, my internship supervisor and I agreed that I’d probably get the most out of a summer with AHS by diving straight into processing collections rather than working the front desk. 

The main project I worked on at AHS was organizing and processing the collected papers of Helen Murphey.  Helen was married to John Murphey, a prominent developer here in Tucson during the twentieth century, and her daughter donated to the society a large collection of Helen’s papers, including personal and professional correspondence, family memorabilia and a variety of materials related to the Murphey construction firm.  When I first encountered it, the collection occupied about fifteen banker’s boxes, each stuffed with letters, photo albums and piles of documents.  My job was to organize all of those materials, arranging the correspondence into file folders by year written, identifying the people captured in the photo albums wherever possible, and creating a finding aid which both provided a table of those contents and offered a relatively brief biography of Helen Murphey and her family’s businesses.

Once the Murphey collection was done, I launched into reviewing a selection of Latin@ collections at AHS.  A number of these collections were originally cataloged by people without a background in Latin American culture or history (such as I have) and my supervisor hoped that by having me go through them I might be able to expand or revise the existing finding aids, and add relevant subject headings to the AHS catalog for these collections.  One part of this project involved integrating three separate but closely related collections of Mexican government documents regarding the creation and later dissolution of the state of Occidente during the early 19th century. 

KR: What skills do you feel like you gained or improved upon?

CM: I have done archival research before, but never been involved in the writing of finding aids or determining subject classifications for unprocessed documents.  The very idea of a finding aid caught me by surprise, as my prior experience in archives has for the most part been limited to smaller museum and library collections in Mexico and Chile, where such advantages to researchers are almost unknown.  The finding aid, as I now understand it, offers researchers not only a fairly concise annotated list of items within a given collection, but can even provide a short biographical or historical essay which places the collection within a broader context.  Creating and revising finding aids not only helped sharpen my somewhat dulled skills in historical writing, but also taught me a great deal about cataloging standards and practices here in the United States.

KR: How did Knowledge River help prepare you for this position?

CM: Knowledge River directly contributed to making this internship happen in the first place by encouraging me to take a course which stressed developing cultural competence in an archival setting and engaging in active service learning work.  Knowledge River also provided some critical early-networking assistance by steering me to the right people at the AzHS with a project proposal in-hand.  To paraphrase James Brown, KR opened up the door, and I got it myself.    

KR: You also have a Ph.D. in Latin American History. Were you able to use this background during your internship?

CM: Very, very much so, and that pleases me to no end.  I think that this internship was a happy conjuncture between me and my prior experience and the needs of both researchers at the SoI and the AzHS.  My particular period of specialization during my doctoral studies was late nineteenth and early twentieth century Latin American history, and when my professor provided me with newspapers from 1900-1920 and said “catalog!,” there was probably a look of real joy on my face.  The staff at the AHS also noted that look, and choosing me to review Latin@ collections there was one of those beautiful, if rare moments in life where the right man was given the right job.  My experience with reading Spanish-language manuscripts from the 1800s was immediately helpful with the Occidente documents.

KR: Could you tell us about your career goals and how this internship has helped to shape them?

CM: I am already employed by the Pima County Public Library and I love working there, so my career goals were fairly well-set before I began this program or my internship.  Having worked in an archival setting for the past few months, I guess I’d admit that I could be recruited away from PCPL by a nice quiet archive … but I think that I might miss the chaotic energy of the public library.

A special thanks to Carl for taking the time out of his busy schedule to tell us about this opportunity. 

For another example of the many internship and assistantship opportunities that members of the Knowledge River cohort explore during the graduate program, please watch the following video or read previous interviews with Hanni Nabahe, Jessica Redhouse, Ofelia ZepedaMonique Perez, and Andrea Castañeda.


College of Social and Behavioral Sciences