...gaining my master’s degree and having archival experience helped me to get my foot in the door at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Since then, I have achieved the role of Archivist at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas.

Virginia Butler, MA in the History of the Book​ Alumna

 

My name is Virginia Butler and I studied the MA in the History of the Book with the Institute of English Studies. Before starting this programme I completed my undergraduate degree in History at the University of Washington.

I visited London for the first time to celebrate my high school graduation and knew I wanted to return for a more long-term stay. Studying for a master’s in the UK was appealing to me, as most programmes are only a year long, compared to two years in my home country (United States), and don’t require GRE testing.

 

Virginia was a participant in the Open Palace Programme in Scotland in 2018, designed for emerging museum and heritage professionals to go behind the scenes at historical sites and museums. Here is Virginia at Kelvin Hall in Glasgow viewing their digitized archive materials.

 

Most of the classes were traditional lecture style with seven or eight students attending at one time. The smaller sessions felt more conversational with as little as three people present. I really enjoyed leaving the classroom to go to the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum as it was important to see and feel examples of the books we were discussing. I wrote my dissertation on the history of the Comic Codes Authority using Batman to study trends in the comic book industry and how they adapt to meet changing cultural norms. The Senate House Library surprisingly had some very good materials about comic book censorship!

For me the best part about studying in London was being able to use the reading rooms at the British Library. Besides having access to such a wide range of materials, that environment was where I was able to focus best. Going to the library and being surrounded by so many people doing research was very helpful for getting into the right frame of mind for writing.

The smaller sessions felt more conversational with as little as three people present. I really enjoyed leaving the classroom to go to the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum as it was important to see and feel examples of the books we were discussing.

Virginia Butler, MA in the History of the Book​ Alumna

The fun (and not at all academic) highlight to studying in London was never knowing what to expect! We had to come in on a Saturday for a thesis writing seminar and film crews were blocking access to the main elevators. I was pretty annoyed until Keira Knightley walked past me and I noticed the 'Warner Brothers' logo emblazoned on all the equipment. Another time on my way to the British Library I passed some people doing a photoshoot and realized it was the actor who played Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter. As a pop culture nerd I was in heaven.

Once I returned home and started looking for a job I definitely had moments of despair as the jobs I was applying for required a more practical degree such as library science or museum studies. However, gaining my master’s degree and having archival experience helped me to get my foot in the door at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Since then, I have achieved the role of Archivist at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas.

The library is part of the National Archives and Records Administration and holds all of the records produced during President Bush’s time in office. Since we’re a government agency, anyone can file a Freedom of Information Act request for our records. As an electronic records archivist it’s my job to find all digital records that are relevant to their request. I then review the records for information that may need to be redacted.

Anyone considering this course should have a clear idea of what it is they want to get out of it. If someone is interested in this program while also wanting to pursue a career in the heritage sector, I would strongly encourage them to take advantage of London’s many opportunities to gain hands-on experience. Students taking the course now also have the chance to participate in a book trade internship, which was not available when I studied here... I’m only slightly bitter!