Katie Causier Howell oral history interview 1, 2020 December 10
Katie Causier Howell, University Archivist at UNC Charlotte, discusses her career and her personal and professional experiences regarding the April 30, 2019 campus shooting. She describes her passion for her profession as an archivist and her career experiences at Charlotte Piedmont Community College before becoming the University Archivist at UNC Charlotte in 2016. Ms. Howell details her response and that of her department of Special Collections and University Archives following the campus shooting, when it became clear that it was important to document the tragedy as part of University history. She describes the surreal scene in the J Murrey Atkins Library on the day after the shooting and how she organized colleagues to systematically collect student effects that had been abandoned the day before when police swept the building. Efforts to document the tragedy took shape as the University administration reached out to University Archives to collaborate over preserving ephemeral memorial materials that were gathering daily at two locations on campus: the steps of the Kennedy Building which was the scene of the shooting, and the bronze statue of the school mascot, the "49er Miner". Ms. Howell describes how she and her team worked with Facilities Management to collect and archive memorial materials, with particular concern to communicate the purpose of collecting to the campus community. She also describes how these materials were archived either via photographs or as artifacts in the UNC Charlotte April 30 Tragedy Memorial Collection, and how families of deceased students, Riley Howell and Reed Parlier, gathered to view the materials and choose items they wished to keep themselves. Ms. Howell notes how the work of documenting the tragedy, while deeply sad, was also cathartic and how the memorials offered hope as an expression of community concern and love. She reflects on her resistance to becoming a center of attention professionally and in local media, while at the same time acknowledging her gratitude to other archivists for sharing their experiences with documenting tragedy, and her commitment to do the same for others.