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Meet the Staff: Ben Richardson

The Silver Crescent Standard
Tue, 10/12/2021


BRichardson Image



I am originally from Indianapolis and went to Ball State University where I received Bachelors degrees in History and Anthropology and a Masters degree in History.  For 3 years I worked in the State Imaging and Micrographics Lab of the Indiana Archives and Records Administration.  There I created microfilm using several different document archive writers and ran a dark room where I operated a deep tank processor to develop the film.  While I enjoyed my time as a microfilmer, my goal was always to become an archivist and I found that opportunity here at SCDAH in March 2021. 


What do you do as a Preservation Archivist?

My main responsibility is to maintain the microfilm vault including accessions and organization.  Currently I am focusing on consolidating rolls and creating a database that better reflects what we have in our collection and the locations.  I also digitize microfilm as requests come in with the Mekel Mach 10 microfilm scanner.  A couple days a week I have shifts on the reference desk to help researchers as well.


Why did you want to be an archivist?

When I started taking history classes in college I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career after I graduated.  Towards the end of one semester, a teacher announced that a new museum operations class was starting and had spots available.  I signed up immediately and received my first training in archival work.  Connections I made through these classes led to a job at the BSU Archives and Special Collections as a student assistant.  I learned quickly that I was really drawn to the research and sharing the amazing historical materials with the patrons.  Since then I have continued to work in archives in any way I can and have enjoyed every minute of it.


What is your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of archival work in general is the constant change of topic.  While the processes may stay the same, it’s nice to learn a new story or research a new subject almost everyday.  This is also why I enjoy working in the reference room.  You meet a lot of different kinds of people who are studying a plethora of different materials and have a unique story to tell.  I am always eager to help facilitate the growing of that story in any way I can.


Who is your favorite historical figure or time period?

I am mainly interested in the Civil War and Reconstruction era and most of my studies in college were focused on this time period.  My favorite person I discovered was Elizabeth Van Lew who ran a spy ring for the Union army in Richmond, Virginia.  Her greatest achievement came when she offered her friend, secretly a freed woman with a photographic memory, as a house slave for Jefferson Davis.  This direct pipeline to the Confederate White House proved to be invaluable and was publically acknowledged by President Grant after the war.   For her efforts, Van Lew was later appointed Postmaster General of Richmond.