Ask Travis Emick what he loves most about his job, and he responds without hesitation: “I love serendipitous discovery.”
As the primary architect of the library’s online Scholarship Repository, Emick and his colleagues Joseph Ferrer, Lisa Taylor, and James Bradley have had multiple opportunities to uncover hidden gems in the library’s vast archives and make them available to the public.
The Scholarship Repository is a treasure trove of approximately 6,000 documents spread over five collections: Faculty Scholarship, Law Journals, the Honorable Roger J. Traynor Collection, UC Hastings Archive & History, and California Ballot Initiatives & Ballot Propositions. The Traynor collection is one of the most important, Emick said. “He served as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and was also a UC Hastings professor. His opinions are greatly respected in the legal community.” Emick also said that the California ballot archive is one of the largest collections. With initiatives dating back to 1912, it provides a comprehensive picture of the history of citizen government in California.
Prior to joining the UC Hastings library two years ago, Emick spent seven years working in Boston College’s library where he started compiling a repository in 2006-2007. “At the time there was a movement to make things free and available to everyone. Today, online repositories are quite common and most major law schools and universities have them,” he said.
Emick explained that the documents in the repository have reached people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them, such as high school and college debate teams, local branches of city government and even federal agencies. The repository attracts visitors from around the world. “Part of Dean Wu’s vision was to make all of UC Hastings’ content more widely available. You have information that doesn’t look like it would be immediately useful to anyone, but once it’s online you find that people are interested in it.” For example, the different documents in the Traynor archives have been downloaded more than 13,000 times over the past year, Emick said. He also recounted getting a call from a former law student who had won a Maserati in a raffle in the 1970s and wanted to find out more about who had donated the car. “There are lots of stories of people coming across UC Hastings-related information through the repository, which opens up a window for us to communicate with them.”
Now that the core collections are available online, Emick has turned his attention to improving the repository’s web interface and search functionality. He’s also spent a good amount of time preparing the school’s physical archives for off-site storage while the library undergoes renovation. “I’ve had to go through every single box and document in the archives,” Emick said.
He described finding an object in one of the boxes that didn't fit with the rest. When Emick and his colleagues finally succeeded in opening the object, they discovered an old Bellows camera that had been manufactured in Austria. The library team believes that Justice Traynor either received it as a gift or purchased it when he visited Salzburg for a conference in 1956. They have since reunited it with the rest of the Traynor object collection. “It’s nice to find such long-forgotten memories and bring their stories to life. I really enjoy that part of the process.”