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Gordon Daines, department chair of Special Collections and EdLF graduate, gives insight on being an archivist.

Gordon Daines. Photo by MSE Photography.
Gordon Daines. Photo by MSE Photography. 

Where does one find nineteenth-century correspondence from Lewis Carroll or a letter from Louisa May Alcott? What about Max Steiner’s original manuscript score for Gone with the Wind or a first edition of Dracula? As a BYU archivist, 2018 EdLF graduate Gordon Daines can answer all these questions and more, taking students down the rabbit hole, two floors underground, and into the bottom floor of the Harold B. Lee Library (HBLL).

Daines earned a BA in history from BYU and a MA in history from the University of Chicago. After several years working as a BYU archivist, he enrolled in the Education Doctorate (EdD) program at the McKay School, which helped him expand his worldview and examine issues critically. He currently works as the department chair of the BYU Harold B. Lee Library’s L. Tom Perry Special Collections and Curator of Research and Instruction Services. Special Collections holds a myriad of valuable objects, from rare early editions of Walt Whitman’s poetry to pamphlets written by Martin Luther. Daines said his current job has required him to be a jack-of-all-trades. “You're expected to know a little bit on all of the collections that we have.” 

Outside of BYU, Daines fills multiple leadership roles in the archival community. He is the founder, managing director, and editor of the Journal of Western Archives and the current chair of the Governance Board for ArchivesSpace, an open-source software community that allows archives and special collection libraries to share information about their collections. Daines is also an active member of the Society of American Archivists, an organization which empowers archivists and encourages academic excellence.   

Daines has acquired numerous awards for his involvement in the archival community. In 2010, he received the Movers and Shakers in Archives Award from the ArchivesNext blog, and in 2013, he was granted the Service Award from the Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists (CIMA) for his contributions to CIMA and the archival profession. The HBLL also gifted him the Faculty Professionalism Award in 2011 for career-long excellence, creativity, and leadership. 

For Daines, pursuing his doctorate was never about opening doors for his career. Finishing a doctoral degree has been an item on his bucket list since graduating with his master’s. “It really was the opportunity to finish something I’d started previously and the opportunity to work with people who I thought were interesting and had interesting things to teach,” said Daines. “I learned a lot from them. I’m glad I did it.” 

Gordon Daines on the Oregon coast. Photo by Hannah L. Daines.
Gordon Daines on the Oregon coast. Photo by Hannah L. Daines.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the EdD program for Daines was bouncing ideas off his teachers and expanding his worldview with his cohort—a group of students made up of experts in various fields—as they examined critical issues. Even after graduating from the program, he still keeps in contact with EdLF faculty. “I have relied on those opinions,” said Daines. “I've asked people for advice, and that's been really useful.”

One of the professors Daines has kept in contact with is Mike Owens, an EdLF professor who specializes in cultural competency and multicultural education. Using this connection, Daines found a way to combine the things he learned in the EdLF program with his work for the Journal of Western Archives. “I wanted to see if we could do a special issue for the Journal of Western Archives on cultural competency, diversity, and inclusion issues,” said Daines. “I leveraged some of the things that I've learned in Mike's class and approached another colleague at the University of Hawaii, and we co-edited a special issue of the journal that dealt with those issues.”

For his most recent project, Daines and a colleague are studying transformational leadership in the Book of Mormon by comparing the leadership styles of Amalickiah and Captain Moroni. “The Book of Mormon, when it's paired with the leadership literature, has a lot to tell leadership literature, and leadership literature has a lot to say on how you think about what's in the Book of Mormon.” 

When Daines is not conducting his own research, he’s helping students pursue their interests. “Faculty on campus can bring their classes to Special Collections to get introduced to the materials that we have and to have a discussion about how these materials could potentially be useful in research projects.” He hopes students and faculty will come down the rabbit hole to the first floor of the HBLL to take advantage of the resources in Special Collections.

Writer: Emma Smith
Contributing Writer: Cameron Hussein
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922