Friday, September 18, 2009

Just Call Me Project Archivist!

I know that it's been an exciting year for me to break news on this blog: I'm going to New Orleans! I've got a book deal! My wife's having a baby! The book has a release date! My wife had the baby! I just wrote 3,000 words on "Shoe Shine Boy" in one evening! The Giants win the pennant!

Today, I have even more news to share and, on a personal note, it's almost as equally as exciting as the above. Beginning October 13, I will have a new line of work: I will officially be the new Project Archivist at the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College! It's literally a dream come true. In less than a month, I will have a full-time job literally archiving and preserving important artifacts located within the confines of the Archives. I spent many, many hours up there researching my book while I was writing it and it was always like visiting heaven: Armstrong's letters, private tapes, scrapbooks, photographs, you name it. I always said it was ambition to one day wind up there for good.

In the meantime, though, I continued my normal day job, which I've mostly kept hidden but I have mentioned it once or twice on this blog. I graduated with a Master's Degree in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers in 2005 and expected to take on the world. But let's just saw the Jazz History field isn't exactly America's most fertile job field. So, recently married and needing a paycheck, I turned to the family business, a job I had held for every summer since sophomore year of high school: I became a house painter.

Yes, a house painter. As one construction worker said on the job, "You know you're the only painter in New Jersey with a Master's Degree, right?" But I didn't mind. It was an honest living, I loved working with my father, brother and brother-in-law (my wife even joined the crew one summer!) and most importantly, it allowed me to listen to my Ipod for five to six hours a day, formulating many of the ideas and opinions that flowed into this blog after working hours ended.

I did have many great times painting, but it was hard work and as my father often told me, he didn't put me through college to be a painter for the rest of my life! So when I noticed the Project Archivist job posted on the Louis Armstrong House Museum website in August, I pounced. And after two rounds of interviews, I was officially selected for the position this week. Dream come true...

So what will I be doing as Project Archivist? Well, my biggest task concerns the Jack Bradley collection. Jack was one of Armstrong's good buddies, a frequent presence in Armstrong's circle between 1958 and 1971, usually with a camera in hand. On top of the thousands of photos he took of Pops, Jack became the foremost collector of all things Armstrong in the world. A few years ago, he reached a deal with Queens College to donate his massive collection to the Armstrong Archives. How large is this collection? It's going to take six years to fully transport the contents of Jack's collection. For a wonderful New York Times article on Jack and the collection click here.

The Archives has already made two trips to collect some of Jack's stuff but so far, everything they collected is undocumented. And that's where I'll come in. I'll literally be going photo by photo, album by album, letter by letter and cataloguing them into a computer program, Past Perfect. I'll have to use my ridiculous Armstrong knowledge to identify people in the photos and come up with years and dates as best I can. That might sound tedious to some, but for me, that's the fun part. During my interview, Director Michael Cogswell opened up one box of Jack's negatives to just give me a sample. The photos had no date or identification but I noticed it was a recording session with the All Stars with Big Chief Moore and Eddie Shu in the front line. "Fall 1964," I exclaimed like some kind of robot. "Mercury session. That was the only time that version of the All Stars recorded in a studio." Bingo. And the boy gets a cigar...

That will be my full-time job come October. It's a grant-funded job so I'm guaranteed to be doing this for two years. At the end of the two years, hopefully there'll be a long-term role for me in the growing Louis Armstrong House Museum enterprise. But for now, I'm content to be one of a small percentage of Americans who is truly going to love going to their job each and every day!

So what does this mean for the blog? Good question. My painting hours were always pretty flexible so I had plenty of time to write blogs and work on the book. Now, five days a week, I'll be gone from 5:30 a.m. til 5: 30 p.m., with a wife and baby waiting for me at home and on the weekends. If you look at it that way, it doesn't bode well for the blog. But I'm probably going to take the bus more often then not and with a laptop and an 80-minute bus ride (twice a day), I might be able to do more writing than I ever could have imagined. I'm sure, I'll still find time to pump out two or three entires a week because I truly love doing this and hearing from Armstrong fans from around the world.

But until then, it's back to celebrating for me. 26 more days til I officially begin a career in Louis Armstrong. Dream come true...

2 comments:

MARIO said...

Good news.In Spain people says that "EVERY BABY COMES WITH BREAD IN HIS HANDS...".Greetings.

Scott Merrell (seulbzzaj@aol.com said...

Who better to be the Project Archivist than you? What a great job! Congratulations!

Best,
Scott