The Utah State Archives is thrilled to welcome our new Reformatting Program manager, Melissa Coy! Melissa joins us from Utah State History where she was the Digital Program Specialist for several years and the Manuscripts Curator before that. Melissa brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this role, as well as an exciting vision for the digital future of our Reformatting Program. Let’s get to know her!
Welcome, Melissa! We’d love to hear your story of becoming an archivist…
Thanks! I’m so excited to be here. When I was an undergrad, I was Jeff Nichols‘ research assistant while he was writing his book, Prostitution, Polygamy, and Power: Salt Lake City: 1847-1918. He took me to the Utah State Archives where I looked at the city arrest ledgers from the 1870s. It was probably my first real experience with a primary source, since the primary sources I had used before were all published. In my hands was a list of women, each of whom paid $100 fines regularly as a cost of doing business. The handwriting, the misspellings, the frequency of the names – all of this triggered my imagination. Did the women tease the arresting officers? Did they joke about seeing each other next week? And right there I thought, “Whatever this archival work is, I’m chasing it.”
After spending the summer of 2003 as an intern at the State Archives, I trained as an archivist at Utah State History where I worked for over 16 years. As the profession shifted to digital, I decided to pursue it. The joy of discovery that I experienced with the arrest ledgers has carried me through my career, and drives my passion for reformatting and making materials accessible. It’s such an exciting time to be an archivist, and working at the Utah State Archives really is my dream job.
We know you just started, but how is it going so far?
So far my typical workday is filled with meetings, meetings, and more meetings! All joking aside, these meetings have been incredibly valuable. I’m having some great discussions about how central the Reformatting Program is to meeting the Division’s goals, and how the program will grow in the next five years. My day also includes very important discussions with the team about which sci-fi television space ships are the fastest.
What is your favorite collection from the Utah State Archives repository – and you don’t have to choose just one!
I could point out so many things! Here are some favorites:
- The State of Utah vs. Joe Hill digital archive is a great resource, and is beautiful online.
- Series 4639 – Salt Lake City Police Criminal Record Books (1871-1878) is what got me hooked as a young researcher. They are not digitized but can be viewed in the Research Room!
- When I was an undergraduate back in 1997, I had a professor who taught us how to transcribe historic documents by using the John D. Lee trial. The internet was still pretty new, and I remember thinking “how cool would it be if primary sources were online someday?” And now the John D. Lee Criminal Case File is online, and transcription is crowdsourced! It’s exciting to share these materials and engage with the public in creative ways.
When you are not in the office, what can we find you doing?
I crochet A LOT, and I make everything. I probably made three afghans during quarantine! I also make 3-dimensional pieces like dolls and animals. I went through a phase where I made many food items with little happy faces. I like to make things based on my own fandoms, so I have made a lot of pieces from Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Adventure Time. I crocheted my own flowers for my wedding last October. I also like to read, garden, watch tv with my big potato dogs, and go camping.
We’re excited to see what the future looks like at the Utah State Archives with Melissa on board!