Jessica Holada (pictured*, at right) joined Special Collections and Archives as director in March, 2014. We first got to know her in a welcome post on this blog. More recently, I asked her a few questions over email about her experience on campus and in the community so far.
What has your focus been since arriving?
I contributed to the tail end of an engaging, exceptionally inclusive master planning process where selected areas within the Kennedy Library were completely reimagined, including Special Collections and Archives. Creating and refining a vision for our program direction, our future—this is always at the center of my thoughts. The vision couples our current capacity needs for collections and operations, with a robust digital infrastructure, and project creation and display space that will showcase truly polytechnic uses of our materials. It’s an exciting time.
Any surprises as you’ve gotten to know Cal Poly and the collections?
Cal Poly spirit is remarkably high. I’ve worked with University Archives in the past, but I’ve never seen these materials used as heavily or as successfully in support of coursework. It may be safe to assume introductory history students share this campus pride, so using University Archives materials gives them a relatable starting place, a context in which to think critically about original documents that describe notable moments at Cal Poly, and they can discover the significance of that experience on their own terms. The University Archives has tremendous development potential, too, and we’re grateful this will give us a fantastic excuse to build connections with our campus colleagues and partners.
How do you approach outreach with the community?
Our strategy has been simple so far: we say yes when people offer us opportunities to prepare talks, tours, and educational workshops. We say yes when asked to serve on local history boards, or help with timely projects, or participate in mixers and forums that are connecting our countywide heritage network. Saying yes is just one approach, but it’s one that is opening new dialogues and forming new partnerships. Our message has been: “We’re open. Our materials are here for you. We value your expertise and experience. We want to learn from you.” I think this is being heard.
*Photo: Jessica and a group of students study and discuss color drawings for “Sea Crag” – an unbuilt residence designed by Central Coast architect Mark Mills.