Friday, September 29, 2006

Ben Blake wins national recognition

When I last wrote about Ben Blake, he had just been laid off from his position at the Western Reserve Historical Society Library, where he was administering the processing of their huge LTV Steel collection, under the terms of a major NEH grant. Despite doing a conscientious, innovative and masterful job of it, when times got tight he was suddenly let go. Unable to land a satisfactory position with just his masters degree in history from CSU, he enrolled in the library program at the University of Pittsburgh, where he's apparently doing splendidly. In fact, he's won a major prize from the Society of American Archivists for his paper on labor history, which will be published in their American Archivist journal. He has also landed a position with the Hagley Museum, one of American's premier business history institutions. Congratulation Ben!

Here's what the Pittsburgh and SAA sites said about his paper:

"Ben Blake, an MLIS student in the Archival Studies Specialization, will be honored by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) with the 2006 Theodore Calvin Pease Award for his student paper, 'A Call for a New American Labor Archives: History, Theory, Methodology and Practice.' SAA reviewers noted that Ben's paper was 'a thoughtful, well-written study that grounds the development of labor archives in the context of the archival progression.' Interestingly, Blake's work calls for labor archives to create knowledge management partnerships with labor unions. Ben will receive his award at the SAA Awards Ceremony to be held on August 4th in Washington DC. In addition to a certificate and cash prize, Ben's paper will be published in a forthcoming edition of American Archivist, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Society of American Archivists. Ben, who is advised by Richard Cox, recently accepted a position as an archivist at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware. The School of Information Sciences congratulates Ben on this national recognition of his work. [from the University Pittsburgh School of Information Science site, apparently now removed]

"SAA's 2006 Theodore Calvin Pease Award was presented to BEN BLAKE of the University of Pittsburgh for his student paper, 'A Call for a New American Labor Archives: History, Theory, Methodology and Practice.' Established in 1987, the award is named for the first editor of SAA's semi-annual journal, American Archivist, and recognizes superior writing achievement by a student enrolled in archival administration classes or engaged in formal archival internship programs. The award includes a certificate, cash prize, and forthcoming publication of Blake's paper in the American Archivist. Blake wrote 'A Call for a New American Labor Archives' for the course 'Records and Knowledge Management,' for Professor Richard J. Cox of the School of Information Sciences of the University of Pittsburgh. In his nomination form, Professor Cox wrote, 'Blake's paper is a critical assessment of the evolution of labor archives, stressing that, despite considerable success in the area, labor archivists have much yet to do. It is the fullest analysis of labor archives in some years.' Blake is the first student from the University of Pittsburgh to receive the Pease Award. Blake begins, 'The challenge for labor archivists is to prove our worth to the labor movement.' The first step in this process involves examining our own history, theory, and practice to become better labor archivists.' His paper grounds the development of labor archives in the context of the archival profession. Early collections were firmly rooted in the historical manuscripts tradition; later collections were influenced by the public archives tradition. Acknowledging the 'new' labor history, Blake concludes with a call for labor archives to forge a closer relationship with the union movement, especially by establishing records management and knowledge management partnerships with unions. [Society of American Archivists' Theodore Calvin Pease Award page]

It would certainly be nice if Cleveland could find a way to keep people of Ben's caliber in town. It's difficult to retain and promote talented individuals when many of our leading local history institutions have so little turnover in key positions. Like many before him, he has gone on to bigger and better things that he would have found here, but that's our problem and our loss.