We here at the blog have decided to check up on Irati Urkitza, who you may have read about in a previous post. The following is an update from the Algortarra, who we are happy to have here at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library and at the Center for Basque Studies. She is doing a tremendous amount of work in the archive and it’s a pleasure seeing her every day.
Five months have passed since I landed in Reno and I couldn’t be happier! First off, this is my first experience related to working in archives so I had a lot to learn. When I arrived, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with the archives and the materials in them. I couldn’t believe how interesting they are. I’ve found all kinds of documents, some dealing with exile, others with the first sheepherders in the West as well as boardinghouses, and the personal stories behind all of them. On example is the story of the migrant to Colombia “El Cojo” Gómez, who happened to be from my hometown, Algorta. He was a “good” smuggler in the sense that he told on “bad” people, even though he was murdered in retaliation for having killed three men. This is just one of the many stories hidden in the archives of the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.
After the process of getting to know the materials, I received training from the library staff in various programs that I’ve been using to catalog archival documents. I think it’s wonderful that they spend time teaching new interns not just how to use the programs but also helping us throughout the way. I still have questions sometimes, but I think I’ve learned quite a bit.
One of the tasks I carry out here besides cataloging is working at the library by attending to visitors and students. It is also my first time working with the public in this way, and I think I’ve improved a lot since I first sat in front of the main desk. Most of the people who come are interested in learning what we do at this library as well as Basque culture and history. Others come because of their interest in their backgrounds, thinking they may have Basque ancestors. We also get a lot of students because our library is quieter than the main library.
We currently have a window exhibit on the bombing of Gernika that I helped to put together. Not only did I record one of the testimonies, that of Mercedes Irala, but I also helped to translate the texts and edit the video on display. The Gernika exhibit is just a small homage to this historic event, but I think it’s important for the diaspora to remember the events that marked our grandparent’s generation.
For now, I’m continuing to discover new treasures that were forgotten in the many boxes that comprise the archive. I’m trying to figure out what it is we have exactly and see if we can create new collections for cataloging. As you can see, I’m working hard and enjoying every minute of it.
Besides working at the library, I’ve had the chance to get to know Reno as well as its surroundings and people. For example, I spent a wonderful weekend at Black Rock Desert for the rendezvous organized by Friends of the Nevada Wilderness and Friends of BRD. I also had the chance to attend the Basque Picnic in Petaluma (CA), which was a way for me to take part in the Basque-American experience. I look forward to traveling more across the West.
Before I end this post, I just wanted to thank everyone at the Basque Library and in the Main Library for giving me this opportunity, especially Iñaki Arrieta-Baro, the Basque librarian, who has to deal with me every day and answer all of my questions. Mila esker!