As students and faculty in universities across the nation have adapted to the remote learning environment, Zach Rutland has gone a step further. While preparing to graduate from UCLA in June with his master’s in library and information science, he is also completing an archival internship at the Skid Row History Museum & Archive.
“It fosters a really good environment for an archivist,” said Rutland, who has also participated in community activism in his Koreatown neighborhood. “I get to listen in and be a part of the conversation on these big ideas — like how to house 7,000 people on Skid Row.”
Rutland, who began his internship in September 2019, started off by processing paper collections that focused on the establishment of housing initiatives in Skid Row in the 1980s. He also worked on cataloging VHS recordings of performances by the theater group of the Los Angeles Poverty Department, the community organization that launched the Skid Row History Museum & Archive with the collections of John Malpede, a director, performer and activist. Malpede founded the group in 1985 as the first performance group in the nation that is made up principally of Skid Row artists, and the first arts program for the homeless in Los Angeles.
Rutland is part of a cohort of UCLA Information Studies students who are participating in the UCLA/Community Archives Internship Project, an initiative of the UCLA Community Archives Lab that is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The lab is directed by Michelle Caswell, associate professor of information studies, and additionally funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services Early Career Grant and the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies Dean’s Student Diversity Initiative.
Rutland says that working with Caswell has given him an understanding of “aligning archival practice to community- centered political goals,” that will inform his practice as an archival professional.