By Ronald Bailey (SMDC/ARSTRAT)October 10, 2018
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- Ladies and Gentlemen, it is U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Workforce Wednesday. Meet Franklin (Frank) Goodwin, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's Historical Office archive technician. We asked him to share a little more about himself.
PAO: What did you do before joining the Army as a civilian employee?
Goodwin: During college I interned at the General Joe Wheeler home and historical site at Pond Spring (Hillsboro, Alabama) where I learned about hands-on artifact preservation and archiving. I also performed guided tours at the site, which provided me an opportunity to engage with the public.
PAO: How did you join the SMDC workforce?
Goodwin: The director of the history department at my school, Athens State University, mentioned a Workforce Recruitment Program at SMDC. Under that program I was hired as an administrative support assistant in 2016 and was assigned as an archivist in the Historical Office.
PAO: Are there any hobbies and interests people might find interesting about you?
Goodwin: Although history is a large interest for me, I am actually very interested in science fiction, science, and technology. Working at SMDC actually allows me to combine some of these passions, as much of the command and related history is science and technology based.
PAO: Is there anything about you that even people who work with you might not know?
Goodwin: I actually enjoy building scale-model miniature railroads. I like to see how young kids in my family or friends of the family react so joyfully when they see them. I also find it interesting how people react when they find out as a Southerner we have a distinguished member of the family who actually fought in the Union Army. We catch a little grief about that from time to time.
PAO: What is the most difficult part of your job as an archivist?
Goodwin: Archiving and preservation is a long and often tedious process. It is not something that provides instant gratification. That said, the process is very important and that gives me a good feeling knowing that information and artifacts will be preserved for the future.
PAO: Why does the Army need archivists? What do they provide to the Army?
Goodwin: Historical material that is properly organized and archived ensures the information will be available to those who may need it in the future. A good deal of my job is not only to preserve and archive, but to answer questions from people who need the information to help them make decisions today. Knowledge is reusable. We have all heard the saying "History repeats itself," usually with the connotation that if you don't learn from history you will repeat it in a bad way. While this can be true, the reverse can be equally true. History not only teaches you what went wrong, but what went right. In the second case, you want to know so you can repeat history in a positive way for you or your organization. Using history can save you resources by pushing you away from bad decisions and toward good decisions.
PAO: Is there a common misconception that you see when it comes to archiving and history in general?
Goodwin: Many people think everything will be paperless and computers make everything easy. While computers and digitization do make some aspects of an archivist's job easy, it can also add complexity. For one thing, if the vast majority of information is electronic, it is easier to transfer and store it. On the reverse side of that, digital information is extremely perishable with the click of a mouse. A lot of information can be permanently lost in a matter of seconds. Archivists have to be proactive by learning where and how information is stored so we can make sure the individuals with the information do not delete it before it can be archived. Also, as computer technology changes very quickly there is a risk that information recorded in one format will not be the format used in the future. Will we still be using PDF, JPG and Word documents 50 or 100 years in the future?
PAO: For someone who would like to make a career as an archivist, what advice would you give them, particularly young students?
Goodwin: I started at the community college level before I went to a university, and I'm glad I did. I found it to be a more friendly and less expensive venue that allowed me to figure out exactly what I wanted to do for a career. Originally I didn't know I wanted to be an archivist. That came with time. But as I got into the field, I found volunteer and internship work particularly helpful. Volunteering and interning allowed me to do hands-on work to gain practical experience in the field so by the time I graduated, I not only had education credentials for my career, but a couple of years of practical work experience. I believe this combination of education and work experience helped me get hired as an Army civilian.