Institute of Jazz Studies Archival Fellowship Program Participants Reflect on Their Experiences

The Institute of Jazz Studies Archival Fellowship Program was established in 2011 to support archival career development, as well as to promote diversity in the archival field. Each year, three Fellows are selected from among dozens of applicants, who are either currently enrolled in, or recent graduates of, an MLIS program, have a special interest in jazz and or African American culture, and aspire to careers as archivists. Fellows receive a stipend to cover travel, hotel, and miscellaneous expenses. The Fellowship Program is funded by longtime IJS supporter John Van Rens.

The Fellows spend two weeks on campus working closely with IJS archivists and staff. Participants gain hands-on experience processing one of the Institute’s multi-faceted collections and preparing a related digital project that can be shared with colleagues and prospective employers. There are also seminars with RUL as well as Newark campus administrators, who provide an overview of Rutgers-Newark as the nation’s most diverse university, as well as role of an archive within an urban university library. The Program also involves two days of visits to other area archives and institutions, which have included the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library Archival Processing Center, the Louis Armstrong House Museum and Archive, the Jazz Museum in Harlem, the Carnegie Hall Archive, and the New York Philharmonic Archive at Lincoln Center. There are also several social gatherings with IJS staff and area librarians and archivists.

This year’s fellows were Veronica Johnson (MLIS student at Wayne State Univ.), Treshani Perera (MLIS student at Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and Brad San Martin (MLIS student at Univ. of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), who were on campus from June 6 to June 17. In collaboration with IJS archivists Elizabeth Surles, Angela Lawrence, and Tad Hershorn, and Digital Humanities Librarian Krista White, they processed the collection of pianist/composer and NEA Jazz Master Andrew Hill (1931-2007). Hill as both player and composer was a unique figure, who forged an original style that was at once part of the jazz tradition while extending its boundaries. On the last day of the fellowship program, Hill’s widow, Joanne, and donor of the collection, visited IJS to meet with the Fellows and to examine the newly processed collection she had donated as well as to view digital presentations by the fellows covering selected aspects of her husband’s distinguished career.

Veronica Johnson, photo by Ed Berger.

Veronica Johnson, photo by Ed Berger.


Completing the IJS fellowship at Rutgers was an amazing experience and one that I will forever be grateful for. I learned so much about processing and the steps it takes to make a collection available to users. Working on the Andrew Hill Collection was great, and it really gave me the opportunity to process a larger collection, which I had never done before. I learned a lot about Hill and quickly became a fan of his work, which was very innovative. My favorite part of the program was learning about EAD and being able to create a finding aid using Oxygen. EAD was an area I did not have much experience in outside of school, so having Elizabeth and Angela show me how to use the software and create this awesome finding aid for the collection was very enlightening. I also really enjoyed visiting the other archives like the Jazz Museum of Harlem and the New York Philharmonic in order to see how other archives both large and small operate. The IJS Fellows program really gives graduate students the opportunity to be archivists for two weeks and get a real sense of the day to day tasks of the profession. The IJS staff is awesome and really made me feel welcome and a part of the team. I also developed some great friendships with the other fellows and am so thankful that I was able to take advantage of this great opportunity.

Treshani Peterson, photo by Ed Berger.

Treshani Perera, photo by Ed Berger.


I’m really thankful that I was chosen as a 2016 IJS Fellow. Throughout my two-week experience, I was so impressed with the work ethic and collegiality of the IJS staff, and their willingness to make every moment a teachable one during and outside of processing the collection. I was thrilled for the opportunity to process jazz pianist Andrew Hill’s collection, and discover his genius and creative thought captured in his music. The icing on the cake was meeting Mrs. Hill at the end of the experience, and talking to her about Mr. Hill as a musician and spouse. My favorite part of the experience was visiting music archives in the Greater New York area, and learning about how each archives does things differently. Throughout the two week internship, I was able to put into practice what I had learned in the classroom, and process the collection as a group, which was a unique experience. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity, and can honestly say that it was a transformative experience!

Brad Martin, photo by Ed Berger.

Brad San Martin, photo by Ed Berger.


The greatest strength of the Institute of Jazz Studies Fellowship was in the way it provided well-rounded insight into nearly all facets of an archives’ operations. While processing a collection at a fairly granular level (as we did with Andrew Hill’s papers) gave us invaluable experience in the most fundamental archivist tasks, our meetings and discussions with administrators, directors, historians, and even a donor offered much-needed perspective into archives role in the larger arts community – and the associated challenges entailed with maintaining and evolving that presence. It didn’t hurt that the people we met were all passionate, thoughtful, accomplished professionals who were willing to both share their time and speak candidly about the pleasures and pressures of the field. The two weeks flew by, and I’m sure that, when I look back, I’ll find my time at the IJS to have been a perfect (and much-needed) enrichment to my formal library and archive science studies.

Photos by Ed Berger. More photos from the Fellowship Program are available here:


Jessica Pellien