Hi all! I’m Taylor McNeilly, and I’m the new Processing & Reference Archivist here at the Rare Books and Special Collections division of Boatwright Memorial Library. I’d like to take a moment to tell you a little about myself and the work I will be doing here at RBSC.
I’m a New England native, having grown up in Rhode Island (the littlest state with the biggest name!), and went through my undergraduate career in western Massachusetts. I originally was a linguist by training, specializing primarily in Japanese with some minors/various levels of learning in Russian, French, and a handful of other languages. After graduating, I moved to Japan and taught English before deciding my heart resided in libraries and archives more than teaching. (I am still conversationally fluent in Japanese, however — and ASL, too!)
After returning to the US, I studied and worked at Simmons College in Boston, going through a full-time dual degree program to earn both an MLIS with an archives management concentration and a MA in History at the same time. I also worked as a professor’s assistant and, later, as the archives assistant at the college. I was also actively volunteering or interning in various archives throughout my time at Simmons, meaning that I have over 4 years of experience in my field despite only having my degrees for about half that time.
After leaving Simmons, I worked at the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston. There, I was the project manager for two separate, simultaneous, grant-funded digitization projects while also performing a variety of other responsibilities, including running the institution’s ArchivesSpace implementation and helping to develop a three-year strategic plan for the archives.
Many of these responsibilities are carrying over to my work here at RBSC, but my main priority starting out is going to be processing the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection. You may have seen some info about the Walker Collection before now, but I’ll give you a quick refresher now.
The Rev. Dr. Wyatt T. Walker is a prominent Civil Rights figure, renowned minister, prolific author, and international expert on gospel music, the Black religious experience, and non-violent protest. Walker was also the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s chief of staff for the years 1960-1964, as well as the first full-time executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, president of a local NAACP chapter, state director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and special assistant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Walker was also the minister at the historic Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, VA before becoming active in the Civil Rights Movement, and afterwards was the minister at Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, NY for nearly 40 years.
RBSC acquired the Walker Collection in 2015, although that is a bit of an oversimplification. The Walker Collection’s material has been donated in various stages, with some material coming from NY while some comes from Dr. Walker’s current home in VA. Donated material has continued to come in, even as recently as earlier this month. As such, work on arranging and describing the material has had to wait until most (if not all) of the material was available.
Since we now have the majority of the material, and now that I’m here, processing of the Walker Collection can move forward! It will be closed to researchers until I can finish working on the collection as a whole, but I will be sharing the process of arrangement and description here as part of a new weekly blog series. I’ll also be posting interesting items I uncover during processing on the Boatwright Memorial Library’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds, so be sure to follow all our social media accounts to keep updated on what cool stuff I find!
If you have any questions about the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt T. Walker Collection or RBSC in general, leave them in the comments below! And otherwise, I’ll see you next week for another progress update on the Walker Collection.