In August 2021, Bard Graduate Center’s Department of Research Collections welcomed its first Library Fellow, Vic Panata. This fellowship was developed in partnership with Pratt Institute, where Vic is a student in the master’s program in library and information science. Now a quarter of the way through their two-year appointment, Vic has gotten familiar with the BGC Library’s collections, operations, and visual resources, and has joined some working groups in discussion.

Vic recently graduated from Princeton University. Their undergraduate thesis, Conceptualizations of the Indigenous Body in Response to the Columbus Quincentenary, examined contemporary Indigenous artists and works responding to the impact of Columbus’s arrival to North America, 500 years later. Now, Vic is interested in how archives and collections are expanded by performance and ephemeral arts. They draw on their perspective as a queer academic of color to pose fundamental questions around how the dynamics of ownership play into archiving and librarianship. These interests have led them to critical and inclusive librarianship and archival practices, specifically for Black, Brown, Indigenous, queer, and trans people. Although library studies are often seen as very structured and fixed, Vic’s investigations in malleable and marginalized aspects of the field bring a valuable perspective into the daily operations of BGC’s own collections.

Vic has worked closely with Heather Topcik, director of Research Collections, and Anna Helgeson, associate director of BGC Library, immersing themselves in the daily practices of the department. They have spent some of their time processing periodicals and subscriptions and contributing to the maintenance of shifting collections. Vic has also spent time working with Barb Elam, Digital Collections metadata librarian and Study Collection manager, gaining hands-on experience cataloging and identifying objects that have been gifted to BGC and taking photographs of different textiles and other unconventional materials. Engaging with these objects has created opportunities for them to speak and ask questions about where these objects came from and how they are being processed and labeled.

As the Library Fellow, Vic has participated in working group discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion with others from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, and BGC. Members gather regularly to implement and workshop changes in collections and even address ethical issues within their collections’ practices. The proactive and regular meetings inspire Vic by holding space for critical discussion and practice within each respective group.