The Vermont Cynic

On the record

Vermont Cynic: What does your job entail? Sylvia Bugbee: I work in special collections. Special collections have all the historical collections and so I work both with special collections at the main library and down here. One of the things I do all the time is work with people coming in to work with our collections – to help them find what they are looking for. VC: How did you come to be in this job? SB:Well, I started out as a scientific research technician – that is what I did. I majored in zoology and I worked in various, mostly medical, facilities. But history has always been the real thing that I was interested in, so I decided after 20 years in science research that I would go back and get my Masters in history. That led to this job. VC: What things do the special collections offer that people are not aware of? SB: Well, great photos, especially of UVM in the past. We’ve used some in exhibits in the main library quite a lot. There is just a huge variety of papers that are relevant to various kinds of histories. And we have women’s history collections, like we have Governor Kunin’s papers here, for example. We have rare books up in special collections. One of the really cool things we have is artists’ books. We specialize in collecting those. They are just beautifully wonderful and whimsical. There are so many things. VC: Are most of the documents Vermont-related? SB: Yes, most of our historical papers are Vermont papers. We have a lot of historical papers starting back in the 18th century, say, with Ethan and Ira Allen. Special collections also has a rare book collection.VC: I had heard that UVM had one of the largest collections of Ovid texts.SB: That is correct.VC: How large is it? SB: Oh, hundreds of books. We have Ovid books that go back to early printing. Do you know what an Incunabula is? They are books that were printed before 1500 or 1600. You know, the Gutenberg Bible era – and we have several. In fact, I did an exhibit of Ovid’s Fasti, and we have 15 or 20 just of that. 1493 is the earliest one we have. We actually have an artist’s book that uses the Fasti. It is a very whimsical book with a hundred or so pictures. VC: What is the oddest request that you have had from a person doing research?SB: This is not actually a request, but we had a guy who had a large gold-ish coin. He was sure it was an early Vermont minted coin, but it had Russian on it, so it probably was not. Everybody has different requests and different interests. I think that one of the things I love about the job is that no matter what someone asks me, I learn something new about our collections and history that I did not know before.VC: Have you ever found something that surprised you when you were looking for something else? SB: Yes, lots of times. I was looking for stuff in one of the dullest collections that we have – the Vermont UVM Treasurers’ records – and I found in it some 17th and 18th century documents. I don’t know why they were there. Of course UVM started in 1791, so they are not directly connected to UVM, so it is kind of a mystery. I had no idea that stuff was in there. There was a deposition by a guy in a Rhode Island court who was deposing, during the Revolutionary war, a Vermonter who was acting as a courier between loyalists in Vermont and in Rhode Island. VC: Is there anything that you read that would surprise people who know you professionally? SB: Even though I am supposed to be concentrated on Vermont history, I am crazy about the London blitz. And I have been doing a lot of reading about the Blitz, especially about how the cityscape of London changed due to the blitz. VC: How long ago did you graduate with your Masters in history?SB: In 1993.VC: Where did you study?SB: Here. UVM.VC: What professors did you work with that really stand out as great professors?SB: Let’s see. Mark Stoler is still here, I think. The two that I enjoyed the most were Stoler, who is a really outstanding 20th century historian, and Pat Hutton. VC: From an historian’s perspective, is there a particular building at UVM that impresses you?SB: They all impress me for different reasons. Because I am a UVM archivist, I have done a lot of studying of the UVM buildings. Each of the buildings, in its historical context, represents something interesting. The Renaissance revival Billings library, which is probably the most beautiful building, particularly inside, that is probably the one I like the most – because it was a library, what can I say?VC: Do you have a mentality that keeps you driven to do your job? SB: I just love discovering things. I like finding things for people. I love being a detective and find stuff, whether it is for other people’s research or my own. I just love the thrill of the hunt, if you will.

on the record.

Vermont Cynic: What is the day in the life of a mayor like; what did you do today? Mayor Bob Kiss: That’s an interesting question. There are definitely planned meetings throughout the day and things come in spontaneously. I spend a lot of time here [at City Hall] and a lot of time not here, depending on what the events are. I started the day playing basketball at the Y. VC: What’s your involvement what UVM? What do you think of the students? BK: UVM is clearly an asset to the city of Burlington in a bunch of different ways. Both the faculty that bring the academic skills and the students that bring interest in ideas and vitality are important [to the city]. I’ve lived in Burlington since 1972 and I think UVM has always been an asset. I love going to UVM women’s basketball games. There are always things to do associated with UVM, and I think that’s a plus. VC: What was college like for you?BK: I was in school from 1965 to 1969, an era when the United States worked its way through the war in Vietnam and civil rights and so those were the burning issues then. People were living and dying out of the Vietnam issue. I graduated in ’69, in May, and went to the Peace Corps in July. VC: Did you think that’d you become involved with politics while you were in school? BK: I never had on my list to be the mayor of Burlington, but I was always sort of involved in political issues. A lot of the time I was in Burlington I was involved in the issues even though I wasn’t in a partisan position. When I left there, I got elected to the House and then after the House I became mayor, so it is all connected, but it wasn’t a grand plan. It’s evolutionary, really. VC: What was your reaction to the mob on Church St. on Election Day? BK: It was great. It was a positive group of people. I was talking to a friend yesterday who was at home [during the celebration] and he said that he had never heard a roar quite like that in the city. You hear baseball games occasionally and music from the waterfront but this was just a bunch of people. I was here at City Hall and watched everyone go by. VC: What did you think of the results of the 3-4 District race? BK: Well, Chris Pearson replaced me [as representative in the 3-4 District], and in some respects I think it was discouraging, because Chris and Dave [Zuckerman] have done a good job representing interest in Montpelier for people in Burlington as a progressive, independent voice in the political process. Having a third party and more is a plus in the political process, and so I think it’s unfortunate that Kesha, who also brings skills and interests, was running against two people outside of the Democrat and Republican parties. It’s very positive that voters elected a young woman, and ethnicity issues were addressed. That was all very positive. It’s not positive, though, that we had a more enriched representation, and we lost that. I’d say [the outcome] was bittersweet. VC: What are your recent efforts to make Burlington greener? BK: Well, we’re trying to re-write the city’s Climate Action Plan [which was written in 2000] to figure out how to reduce greenhouse gases. We’re looking to reduce gases by 80 percent by 2050, and we’re aimed at a 20 percent reduction by 2020, but we need to put things in place to make that happen. It hasn’t been easy to get a base number of where we are starting from. There isn’t good software or good methodology. I think once we get a base we can actually see if we’re making progress. VC: What do you do personally to make a difference environmentally? BK: It’s interesting; one of the things I’ve talked about is taking a shorter shower. I always thought I took a five-minute shower, but then I got one of these egg timers … and I found, in fact, I take a three-minute shower. There are some people that take 15-minute showers, so there are things we can do individually and some of it is just becoming conscious. Instead of drying clothes, you can hang them on a rack. You can bike, walk, and in any case, use your car less. I think if we do all this stuff cumulatively, that’s what will change things. There’s not going to be one thing that does it all. VC: What are your views on the decriminalization of marijuana? BK: I definitely think that people shouldn’t be going to jail for small amounts. People need to pay attention to the use of marijuana, but it’s not a danger to society in terms that we should imprison people for small amounts of marijuana. I do think that law enforcement keeps it in perspective now, and some offenses are just a cash fine for small amounts. VC: What are your plans for Thanksgiving? BK: Heading down to Rhode Island. My partner’s mother lives in Newport, and we tend to go to her place for the holidays. This year I’ll take off Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday to make it a longer week.

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On the record