Among the stacks of historical manuscripts and archival treasures at the McKay Library Special Collections and Archives Jeremy White, a senior studying humanities, aspires to bridge between past insights and present inquiries.

Born in Coventry, England, and raised in the urban landscape of Harlem, New York, White’s eclectic journey brings a unique perspective to his role in the quiet confines of the McKay Library.

White moved to the U.S. when his father, pursuing his degree, enrolled at Columbia University. His family’s subsequent move to Pawnee, Illinois marked another shift in his dynamic upbringing. The trajectory of his early life, marked by frequent relocations, eventually led him to Rexburg, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I grew up in Harlem… it was especially rough,” White said. “We went from the middle of the city of New York in Manhattan to a 3,000 people town, which is a lot of fun.”

McKay special collections contains an exhibit showcasing the timeline of the Hymn Book since 1835

McKay special collections contains an exhibit showcasing the timeline of the Hymn Book since 1835. Photo credit: Chester Chan

His academic journey, influenced by his parents, steered him towards BYU-I where he currently pursues a major in humanities with minors in philosophy and physics.

“My parents, both their degrees, their backgrounds are like in the humanities and philosophy. So I kind of was raised on that,” White said.

This familial influence is a cornerstone of his educational path, which now includes a burgeoning interest in law. Specifically, White aims to specialize in intellectual property and patent law, fields that necessitate a strong foundation in the hard sciences—hence his pursuit of physics as a minor.

The McKay Library Special Collections and Archives, where White works, serves as both a workplace and an academic enhancer. His role there began through a referral by a friend, and he quickly discovered a passion for archival work.

Jeremy White the McKay Library Special Collections Archives

Jeremy White in the McKay Library Special Collections Archives. Photo credit: Chester Chan

Currently, White is involved in an internship project centered on the Teton Dam. His work involves creating an online exhibit that marks the 50th anniversary of the dam’s collapse, a local tragedy with deep community and historical significance.

“The Teton Dam, we have a ton of different collections that have things about that,” White said. “So what I’m doing right now, is less of the front desk, less of the community outreach, and I’m focusing on going back into all of our boxes and trying to find things that we have about the Teton Dam.”

Aside from the Teton Dam project, White has contributed to other exhibitions, including a recent one on the updated hymnbook for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The hymnbook exhibit traces the evolution of congregational singing within the Church’s community—a topic that resonates personally with White, whose mother was a primary music leader.

“It’s fascinating to see how these hymns have evolved and to think about how they’ll continue to change,” White said.

12 hymns of the new “Hymns—for Home and Church” will be available on May 30, 2024

12 hymns of the new “Hymns — for Home and Church” will be available on May 30, 2024. Photo credit: Chester Chan

Reflecting on his educational and personal journey, White sees each phase as integral to his current endeavors.

“Every place I’ve lived and every transition I’ve made has taught me something valuable,” White said. “These experiences have all contributed to who I am today, and they inform how I approach my work, my studies and my future ambitions.”

For students contemplating a dive into historical research or a position in special collections, White advises embracing the opportunity.

“Take the leap,” White said. “It’s not just about looking at old documents. It’s about connecting with history, understanding the narratives that have shaped our present, and preserving these stories for future generations.”