The GeoConvos team is pleased to present the following guest post by Dana Lamparello, Senior Archivist for Architecture and Visual Materials at the Chicago History Museum (CHM). Below Dana details her experience as a participant during the most recent GeoConvos session with CHM Staff. Joseph Rumenapp, PhD assisted as a facilitator during Dana’s geobio session.
By Dana Lamparello | April 23, 2015
As a self-professed architecture nerd and, relatedly, the archivist responsible for managing CHM’s architectural research collections, I found the site specificity and mapping aspects of the GeoConvo project really appealing. Surely, when asked to map physical spaces that have been personally meaningful, it would be obvious just how much the built environment has impacted both my life and learning. I mean, I grew up on a street in New Jersey where you could see the very top of the Empire State Building; my first apartment was in an eighteenth-century Federal Style row home in Philadelphia; one of my early publishing jobs was in the historic Curtis Center building, where Cyrus Curtis once published Ladies Home Journal–being acutely aware of history, place, and built form undoubtedly shaped my research interests and choice of profession.
But when asked to map four sites that directly impacted my career path, I surprised myself. My first site was what you’d expect: the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia. With its collections and exhibits housed in a nineteenth-century townhome on the quaint Delancey Place, the Rosenbach was the first library/archives/museum hybrid institution I had ever experienced. After visiting multiple times between 2002 and 2005, I knew I wanted to work for a similar kind of institution. My second choice of site was where things got interesting. I chose the University of Texas at Austin, where I completed my graduate education in information science between 2005 and 2007. When Joseph asked if there was a specific space on campus or in Austin that related to my story, I couldn’t think of any place in particular. And when I was asked why this site was important to me, I found myself mentioning the incredible people I had met and the strong connections I had made within the archives and library field. I even said, “I guess I could have been anywhere as long as I had met those people!” My third choice was the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryerson & Burnham Archives, the site of my first archives job in 2008. Instead of citing the building and/or the architectural collections as being most impactful on my career path, I again mentioned the people and the connections I had made there. It wasn’t until Joseph said to me, “This is great; your connection to physical space is all about your personal connections to people,” did it even dawn on me. The fourth site was hard for me to choose, so I went backwards in time and mapped a 2003 vacation to Chicago and rural Michigan, my first time in the Midwest. Without thinking I explained how I immediately loved the city and could see myself living here mostly because I was pleasantly surprised to find how friendly Chicagoans were. People. There they were again factoring into my choice of place!
Finally, in a separate exercise, I was asked to take the GeoConvo project staff to the site of my most memorable experience within the Chicago History Museum. Despite the fact that I spend my days with amazing architectural and photographic collections in spaces of the museum very few people ever get to see, I chose the upper level of our café. Why? Because it’s the place where I first connected with my supervisor and where I decided to accept my current job. While I may love learning about place and the collections that document it, this project helped me see that it’s actually the associated people who create meaningful places for me; they are what make me feel connected to a place and ultimately help me learn from it.