The Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board (USHRAB) is made up of professionals from around the state who have experience in the management, preservation, and care of historical records. Board members are appointed by the Governor and serve three-year terms, each bringing their own expertise to the group and acting as a regional representative from all of Utah’s far-flung corners. We are very pleased to introduce our four newest Board members!
Alice Faulkner Burch
I’ve been interested in Black American history and in preservation of “old” items since I was a child. Several years ago I realized one sentence was repeated when I met people in Utah: “There’s no Black [American] history here.” Knowing that was incorrect because Black Americans helped by building, creating, and improving everywhere we went, I started learning Utah’s Black American history and found gems just as I thought I would. Now I sit on the Board of my husband Robert’s foundation — Sema Hadithi African American Heritage & Culture Foundation — and teach my Community’s piece of history and the fullness of Utah history every chance I get. I’m a hand quilter, an historic skill, and have six quilts done by my Mother and Maternal Grandmother — historic gifts. I believe touching history and those from our personal and collected past is a vital connection we all need, because it helps keep us focused on what’s really important: us; together; then and now and in the future.
I grew up liking history in many forms and wanted to be a writer, and being a historian meshed the two. At the end of my undergraduate program, I was searching for a way to earn a living while having time to read and write about the past. Although being a professor was an intriguing route, as a first-generation college student, graduate school had always felt unavailable to me. After a couple of history professors expressed confidence in my ability to succeed in graduate school, I applied for and was accepted into a master’s program for history. After earning my master’s degree, I taught a year-long stint at a community college before joining a PhD program funded by a teaching fellowship. In that program, I studied something I felt personally connected to: mining towns in the U.S. West. I grew up exploring the Rocky Mountains during family camping trips and hearing passing mention of family relatives who had come to the Rockies in the nineteenth century to mine for gold and silver. I wondered about the challenges people like my relatives had encountered, but even more so, I wondered how they viewed their roles in the world. What had motivated them to live there, and what beliefs did they hold about the environments they inhabited and the people they encountered? How did their beliefs change over time as they saw their work of digging tunnels, blasting holes, and washing rock and minerals downriver change (quite drastically!) the environment that had previously existed, for good or bad? In studying these towns and examining my own beliefs about the environment, I developed an ongoing interest in both public history and environmental justice. Now through my work as a history professor, I get to teach lessons about humanity through the lens of the past so that students can gain practical knowledge to apply to their day-to-day lives.
It kind of feels like it was inevitable that I ended up in public history and museums. I was raised by parents who had a lot of interest in history and grandparents who spent a great deal of time discussing family histories and genealogy. I majored in history as an undergrad and graduate student in Utah, and I found my way to museum field services through public history and collections work.
I have always been interested in history and learning more about it from primary source. Many of my favorite vacation memories are of researching family history in County Clerk offices and archives across the United States. When an archivist job opened up with Davis County, where I could help with researching in and preserving primary documents, I just had to apply for this dream job.
What are our new Board members working on?
Nichelle is working on her first book! Her work, on the mining towns in the American West, “tells the story of how the different (often antagonistic) visions that miners, entrepreneurs, scientists, historic preservationists, and others have held about how to promote the futures of mining towns have created an atmosphere of distrust since at least the early twentieth century. That distrust has centered on how different people value knowledge gained through scientific study and knowledge gained through lived experiences, both of which have been tied to the use and preservation of mining town environments. As the distrust has hung over these communities, have they spiraled into cycles of disagreement, or have they found ways to change course that satisfy everyone’s visions?” Guess we’ll have to read the book to find out!
Becky reports that she is, “pretty excited, almost giddy, about diving into a few boxes of miscellaneous documents and figuring out how and where best to file them – few things are more fascinating to me than a ‘mystery box.’” Fellow history lovers can relate, I’m sure!
Emily is in a new position at the Division of Arts and Museums, as Field Services Manager. In this new position, she “will be spending a lot of time this year focusing on the two federally-funded grant projects I am administering – one to measure the social impact of museums across the United States, and one to bring collections preservation training and knowledge to museums and collections in Utah’s more rural regions.”
Alice has so many exciting things going on that she couldn’t pick what to tell us about. “Just one?!” she joked, when I asked. She reports that she is “currently working on a Partnership Project with Better Days that involves Mignon Barker Richmond Park.” This project is particularly exciting, “because we’re involving four Black American women from Utah’s history.” She also mentioned that she, too, is working on a book, one examining the history of seven Black Americans. Lastly, Alice is excited for Sema Hadithi Foundation’s annual autumn history conference. Be on the lookout, she says, for “some interesting, shocking, and awesome topics.”
What are our Board members looking forward to during their terms?
Emily is “excited to be more connected to the USHRAB members and our shared audiences through this new…perspective. Any opportunity to bring services to constituents into closer alignment through better communication and overlap is a great thing.” She points out that in her first couple months on the Board, she has found her fellow members to be “a really lovely group of people and [she’s] excited to get to know everyone better.”
Because she is still relatively new to Utah, Nichelle is most looking forward to, “forg[ing] and foster[ing] connections with fellow board members as well as find[ing] ways to connect members of the broader Utah community with all that USHRAB can offer.”
Becky also is looking forward to what she can learn from other Board members, particularly in the realm of preservation. She is excited about “the opportunity to help others preserve their local historical documents.”
Alice has jumped into her Board service by volunteering to be a draft reviewer for our 2022 grant applications. “To me this means helping organizations get needed money to do important work in the area of history,” she shared with me. “History is so important now and for future generations. I’ve visited other states who have done a better job than Utah in preserving history, so every penny of a grant to an organization is vital in improving the upkeep and furtherance of Utah’s history.”
The USHRAB is supported with a programming grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives. Our mission is to assist Utah’s public and private institutions in historical records preservation and access.