Christina Gould | Philosophy | SIU

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Christina Gould (PhD, 2012) named Research Specialist

Christina Gould, PhDLiving the good life. Alumna Christina Gould recently assumed a position at Morris Library as Research Specialist, putting her degrees in philosophy to work at the invitation of the Special Collections Research Center. Passionate about both her research and her nascent farm in Pomona, Christina entertains big plans for both. She says that what roots her in Southern Illinois is "the constant sense of adventure and growth that comes from both the natural beauty found here as well as the beauty of the people from whom I enjoy learning."


An interview with Christina Gould, PhD

What is your professional title and what do you do in Special Collections?

My professional title at the Special Collections Research Center in Morris Library is Research Specialist. My area of expertise is, of course, philosophy. I have a variable potpourri of responsbilities in this position. First, I answer questions for researchers who are using our philosophy collections (for example, The John Dewey Papers or The Open Court Publishing Company Records). One morning a week is devoted to working in the research room and helping directly researchers who are working with any of our collections. Part of my time is devoted to processing papers. Processing papers involves discerning any original order that is particular to the records and maintaining that order or if there is no order, creating a way to organize the records so that they are accessible to researchers. It also includes writing a biographical note on the creator as well as defining the scope and content of the materials, dividing the records into series and writing descriptions for those, and then entering all of this information into an EAD (Encoded Archival Description). I have been working on the Hegeler Carus Family Papers and hope to finish those very soon.

Besides helping researchers and processing papers, I have helped to create an exhibit on Mary Hegeler Carus, a little known but fascinating woman in Illinois state history. Pamela Hackbart-Dean, the director of Special Collections, was successful in obtaining an Illinois Humanities Council Grant for this exhibit and I did the research and scanning of images for it. It will be on display in the Hall of Presidents here at Morris beginning March 5th and we have a lovely opening symposium planned to celebrate women's history month and women in engineering. This exhibit will also be featured in La Salle, Illinois at the Hegeler Carus Mansion.

To commemorate the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions, I am organizing a conference on Philosophy, Science, and Religion in La Salle, Illinois at the Mansion that will take place the weekend of September 13-15.

In addition to these responsibilities, I also do committee work for the library. One of these, the outreach committee, is planning several exciting events to highlight our offerings to the university and the surrounding southern Illinois community.

Christina, how does your background in Philosophy come into play when doing the kind of work you do at Morris Library? What is the most exciting thing you've gotten to do so far in your new position?

My background in philosophy comes into play in just about everything that I do at Special Collections. Besides being familiar with key issues, ideas, texts, and figures in philosophy and being able to provide assistance to researchers on this basis, philosophy involves making sense or order out of disordered or seemingly chaotic ideas or situations. Being able to organize or order ideas is essential when processing papers or looking for some sort of organization in papers that seem to have no order. Being able to focus and read for long periods of time is another capacity that my background in philosophy initiated and this is also extremely useful in helping researchers, doing research, and processing papers.

Every day is exciting in Special Collections because I never know what I am going to find in the collections. However, there are two things so far that have been really exciting to me. I recently attended the Modern Archives Institute in Washington, D.C. and learned a great deal about archives, grants, exhibits, preservation, etc. The institute was two weeks long and took place at the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and Archives II in College Park, MD. We worked with very unique and interesting original documents such as naval intelligence records from World War I, census records from 1920-1940, blueprints for historic buildings, and many other fascinating records that helped to shape history. Another exciting thing I have gotten to do was to host Rosa Garibaldi, a former Peruvian Ambassador. She came to do research on the Barreda Papers for her new book and I learned a great deal from her.

Most PhDs leave their granting institutions -- that is generally the way of the academic world. They leave the scene of so much toil. . . I know that youchose to remain here for your professional career. Can you tell us a little bit about what is rooting you here?

Well, I love my job in Special Collections and so, of course, that roots me here. But I also have fallen in love with Southern Illinois and the Southern Illinois community. The natural beauty here is exquisite. I love the outdoors and the forest here is very dear to me. I also love all the lakes and waterfalls and wildlife that are particular to southern Illinois. When I moved here 10 years ago from New Orleans, I never thought I would stay. I missed the music scene and the strong sense of community I experienced in New Orleans. Though it took me some time for me to find, there is a good music scene here and I also have found a deep sense of community. I love the friends I made in the philosophy department. In addition, I have empowering, encouraging, and hilarious friends at "Crossfit So Ill" that constantly remind me not to take myself too seriously and that nothing is impossible if you don't quit. I have gained a great deal of physical and emotional strength from this group. There is a caring and insightful yoga community here with whom I have traveled to Costa Rica for an incredible yoga retreat as well as participating in yoga philosophy discussions here in Southern Illinois. I am originally from the Washington, D.C. area and perhaps a bit of a "city girl." However, I somehow always adapt to my surrounding and in Southern Illinois, I have learned to hunt, fish, butcher animals, grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, and raise livestock. This has been a great adventure and I am always discovering something amazing! In sume, I think what roots me here is the constant sense of adventure and growth that comes from both the natural beauty found here as well as the beauty of the people from whom I enjoy learning.

I hear you recently bought some land in the wine country. Sounds serious. Can you tell us a little bit about your plans?

Well, I have a lot of plans and ideas for this land. I am a bit of a dreamer, but I know some of them will come true. This is another dimension of Southern Illinois that roots me here that I did not mention previously. I recently bought 40 acres in Pomona, just a half mile or so south of Hickory Ridge Vineyard. My property has a unique "A-frame" house on it that currently I am renovating, a large barn, as well as some smaller outbuildings that will need some red paint. All of it is surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest.

Though I did not grow up on a farm, both my grandfathers were raised on farms and somehow I think this love of land and growing things and raising animals transferred to me. I plan to have chickens, goats, sheep, and possibly some pigs and cows. I hope to be able to get the necessary permits, etc., to make goat's and sheep's cheese. I will be growing heirloom fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers and once all of this is established I am close to being self-sustaining. I have an extra room in the house that I would like to share by running a bed and breakfast. I love to cook, especially using all homegrown ingredients, and I think people would like to see how it is to live rurally like this. Since the property is near several well-known hiking trails and also lies on the wine trail, it would be a convenient and very beautiful way for visitors to discover the treasures of the area.

A lot of people ask if I plan to grow grapes and have a vineyard. I would not mind having a few vines to make my own wine but I do not plan on opening a vineyard. Grapes are a lot of work and with all the other things I have going on, I am not sure I have the necessary time for that. However, I would like to grow potatoes and sweet potatoes and make vodka. I need to look into what kinds of permits this would require but there are so many locally grown fruits, herbs, and vegetables that I could use to flavor the vodka that I think it could be a fun experiment and maybe pretty tasty!

In addition to these plans, two of my aunts have their master's degrees in education as well as being trained in special education and the Montessori methods of teaching. We have talked about hosting a farm summer camp to expose children to farm life and its various aspects of caring for animals, plants, and the earth.

My final plan for this land is eventually to build a yurt that could serve as a yoga retreat center. We have so many talented yoga instructors in this area. I think the natural beauty and peace particular to the Shawnee on this part of the wine trail lends itself to being a near perfect place to meditate, relax, and open and grow one's heart and body.

And what's with the fainting goats? Tell us about them. I know you used to keep some. Do you plan to get more of them?

Ahh . . . yes . . . the fainting goats! Fainting goats have a muscle condition, which is called myotonia congenita. I have heard them called myotonic goats or Tennessee peg leg goats. Though it looks like they faint if you were, say, to chase them and then scare them, they do not actually faint. They are still conscious and the "fainting" is supposedly painless. This condition makes them more muscular than other goats that do not faint. Fainting goats are generally smaller and they are meat goats and are easier to raise than some of the larger meat goats because they do not challenge fences as much. They tend to have rather sunny dispositions.

I don't know if I will get any more fainting goats. I would consider having one as a buck if I have meat goats. Right now I want to focus more on the dairy goats since I really am looking forward to making cheese.

Interview with L. A. Brown, 2.6.13


Read Christina's feature (PDF) in Cornerstone, Morris Library's quarterly publication.