1. Get other people involved. I’m a people person, and I’m in a field where people almost never collaborate; I’d go so far as to say that academic relationships in this field are limited to someone writing a review about someone else’s book. Not surprisingly, I was thrilled that this project presented an opportunity for me to become involved with a local institution that needed some kind of digitization for its materials.
There is a theater in downtown Americus, GA called the Rylander Theatre, which opened in 1921, suffered through the great depression, closed for 50 years, was refurbished in the ‘90s, and is now living a second life thanks to the resurgence of interest in local arts and culture. The managing director, Heather Stanley, is dedicated, friendly, and was extremely welcoming even from our first phone call. Once we met in person, she told me about the dreams she has for the Rylander and gave me immediate and unlimited access to their “archive room.” With so much freedom and support, I was suddenly a part of the Rylander team and thus almost immediately thrust beyond the scope of my final project…a proposal.
Putting pressure on myself to realize the dreams of the Rylander staff was something I had to slowly learn was unnecessary and besides the point of my own project. As it turns out, the Rylander staff were never expecting me to meet their goals, they were only letting me know that my interest in their materials was part of their motivation. While meeting new people and collaborating on a project inevitably complicates some aspects of a project (coordination, deadlines, shared goals, etc.), it is also a wonderful opportunity to expand your network, learn something new, and understand more about other closely related fields to your own that ultimately encourages a multidisciplinary mindset for future work. After only two months working alongside the people at the Rylander, I have found an entirely new dimension to my community as well as my professional life, and have taken on a deeper appreciation for arts organizations and the tireless work they are doing for their communities.