Staff Spotlight – Robert Covert, Special Collections Manager

Staff Spotlight - Robert Covert, Special Collections Manager 2

Background: I took up an interest in history, particularly military history, in elementary school after a trip to Washington D.C. in the fifth grade. Seeing all the memorials and then the aircraft in the Air and Space Museum got me hooked. I maintained this interest all the way through high school and college, going on to study history and earn my B.A. at Flagler. I blame the really exceptional history teachers at Mandarin High School in the AICE Program at that time (especially Mr. Cason and Mrs. Schrimsher) and my own ineptitude at math beyond Algebra 1 for drawing me to the discipline, because otherwise I would have likely turned to science. As far as history goes, my interests are primarily 20th century military conflict and the evolution of arms, armored vehicles, and aircraft.

Education: I graduated from Mandarin High School in June 2016, and then graduated from Flagler College in December 2019, where I received my B.A. in History with a minor in Business Management. I am currently pursuing my M.A. in History at the University of North Florida.

How did you get started at SAHS?: I initially began at the St. Augustine Historical Society as a volunteer while still attending Flagler. I was looking for a local establishment or organization where I could gain some experience in the historical field before graduating, and Dr. Kelly Enright pointed me towards the society. I briefly discussed volunteering with Bob Nawrocki and Chad Germany before being brought onboard to work on a few projects. I was tasked with working through two manuscript collections, the Hardin Collection and the John Jex Collection, both of which I inventoried and created finding aids for. With the conclusion of my time at Flagler, I left the Historical Society for the time being, eventually returning in late July of 2020 as a full-time administrative position opened up and I was lucky enough to be hired. I reached out to speak with Bob about putting in an application, and he directed me to our Executive Director, Magen Wilson. After a brief interview and a waiting period, I was brought onboard as the SAHS’s Office Manager, while also serving as a research assistant. I remained in this position for over a year until I was offered another position at the Research Library as Special Collections Manager, which I took in late summer 2021.

What projects are you currently working on?: I am currently working on inventorying our collection of posters to produce an updated and correct finding aid that will eventually be accessible on our website. I am also working alongside our Digital Collections Librarian, Nicole Diehm, to organize plans for a full-scale inventory and finding aid update for all of our collections come 2022. 2022 may also see an upcoming veterans’ oral history project that will highlight those who have served since 2001 in any military capacity. Stay tuned for more information on that.

What projects are you looking forward to?: I am most excited for the eventual veterans’ oral history project. I believe it will be a good way to generate community involvement and interest by highlighting local individuals from all walks of life who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in the past twenty years. I am also excited for our continual digital outreach aims, as the more we can make available online, the greater interaction we can have with the public. Constructing online repositories for various collections too is a fun and intellectually challenging process as well, which makes it all the more fun to work on. What good is information if it is not presented effectively and easily accessible by those looking to learn?

What do you like about working at the SAHS?: My two favorite things about working at the St. Augustine Historical Society are being able to help interested people find the information they’re looking for and having a tightly-knit group of staff. Being able to see the genuine interest in a patron’s eyes as you bring them the material they need from our collection is unbeatable. Having coworkers who genuinely support and care for you is also a huge positive, and makes coming in to work both an enjoyable and comfortable experience.

How can SAHS improve going forward?: Going forward, the best way for the SAHS to improve will be by continuing our reorganization and digitization efforts alongside community outreach in order to grow and receive more support. Maintaining strong online infrastructure and making our massive collections accessible to more people will be key to future improvements and relevancy. Working alongside other institutions such as Flagler College and the Lincolnville Museum will also be beneficial to continued and improving success.