Aly Caviness is a lifelong film obsessive, co-owner/administrator of the Midwest Film Journal, and member of the Indiana Film Journalist’s Association. Through Lynch, her grandmother taught her how to spot “The Girl,” and through Frankenstein, her grandfather taught her how to love in spite of fear. She blames Jack Sparrow for her MA in colonial Atlantic history and Guy Pearce for her marriage.   

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

As an administrative assistant in the Archives and Library of the Indiana Historical Society, my days typically encompass several disparate duties. I do everything from administrative work (such as taking minutes at meetings and ordering supplies for the department) to more specialized work (such as shifts at the library reference desk and processing small collections). Because of this, my days are always different.

What got you into history?

Books and movies. Historical settings in fiction have fascinated me since I was very young, and I usually tell people it’s Pirates of the Caribbean’s fault that my master’s thesis was about English and Spanish responses to piracy in the colonial Atlantic period (roughly 1500-1750).

What class are you glad you took while at Ball State or helped the most with your career?

I loved all of Abel Alves’s class, particularly his Colonial Latin America and History of Magic, Science, and Witchcraft classes. Especially as an undergrad, his classes helped to change my concept of history as something to be interpreted rather than something to be memorized. That change in perspective laid the foundation for the rest of my studies and my career. Dr. Seefeldt’s Digital History seminars, along with the graduate assistant work I did for him, also played a huge part in showing my future employer that I had the skills needed to interpret history using new methods and technology.

What class do you wish you had taken? This could be an existing class or one you wish had been offered?

I wish a class about working with and/or processing archival collections was a part of the curriculum for regular history majors. While I feel like I was adequately prepared for interpreting and writing about history in both my bachelor’s and master’s programs at Ball State, I spent the first year or so of my job with IHS wishing I was a little more knowledgeable about physically working with and preserving historical documents. I’ve had some on-the-job training, of course, but I still don’t feel quite as confident about it as I could be.

What advice would you give history majors who are about to graduate?

Don’t underestimate your ability to write clearly and research well. No matter what your eventual career, those skills are valuable because many people in the workforce have not cultivated them the same way history majors do.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I grew up thinking Indiana’s history was boring, but every day at my job I learn something new that proves the opposite. There are so many details all throughout Indiana’s history that I never would’ve known had I not gotten this job. And that’s really the thing about history — the more you dig, the more rewarding it is, and there’s no better place to dig than an archive.

What did the path from graduation to your current job look like? Did you get a job immediately?

After I graduated from my master’s program, I got two part-time jobs — one at my local library, and another at a Barnes & Noble. I basically worked full-time hours with a single day off every two weeks for six months while I looked for a job that was at least history-adjacent. Several applications didn’t go anywhere, and all told, it was a pretty demoralizing period. Then, out of nowhere, I stumbled on the job opening for administrative assistant in the Archives & Library at IHS. I applied, interviewed, and got the job. I’ve always felt like I had the most amazing luck to get this job that’s within my field, and that I didn’t have to move away from my hometown to find it. Most history majors don’t have that kind of luck, and I feel grateful every day for this wonderful job I found at the Indiana Historical Society.

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