Meet a Fellow Heartlander: Rachel Shaw
By Carol Reed
It’s always a treat to get to know more about our Heartland chapter members, and it’s inspiring to be surrounded by colleagues who genuinely love learning and have diverse interests. Rachel Shaw is like that; she enjoys digging deeply into a subject and analyzing ideas, balancing her intellectual work with creative pursuits.
Rachel found indexing when she was ready for a change from her career in academia. With a PhD in history and a minor field in communications and cultural studies, she was accustomed to close reading and organizing scholarly information. Indexing turned out to be a good match for her skills and personality. “It taps into a study habit that I had to unlearn in grad school,” she says, “which was to take notes on every tiny detail.” She started indexing in 2005, took the ASI indexing course, and by 2011, was indexing exclusively.
Areas of specialty for Rachel include the history of the American West, environmental history, humanities, and social sciences. Though she also enjoys indexing art books and crafts-related trade books, her “sweet spot” is the scholarly authors and audiences she understands so well. She’s used to the way scholarly authors lay out and develop their arguments, as well as the type of research their readers are often engaged in.
A lot of Rachel’s indexes have been in areas related to her background, especially Latin America and Spain. Newer ground for her is the indexing of images. A recent index for a book on quilts in the Colonial Williamsburg collection posed some interesting challenges. “It was a gorgeous book with full-color spreads showing a wide variety of quilts, often emphasizing their special details,” Rachel recalls. Handling the images and accompanying names, techniques, and discussions gave her a new respect for the history and preservation of quilts as well as for the process of indexing images.
Her biggest challenge lately is managing indexing projects while being primary caregiver for her two-year old daughter. It’s a tricky schedule, but she makes the most of her available time. She tries to avoid rush jobs, and is finding ways to make her indexing process more efficient. When she has the time, Rachel also tries to balance the intensive brain-work of indexing with one of her hands-on, creative interests, which include knitting, sewing, photography, ceramics, sketching, watercolors, and home repairs.
Rachel is a great example of indexing as a good fit across the different stages of life and careers. We’re thankful to have her in the Heartland community!
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