New Intern Expectations

Technically speaking, this is the last internship I will ever do as a student. The more I think about it, the more I am stunned that this part of my life is (finally!) coming to an end.  As part of my last semester concurrently earning my MLIS and Certificate in Archives and the Preservation of Cultural Heritage Materials at Queens College, I am taking what is known as the Internship Course. As required by this course, I had to find an internship on my own relating to my field of study (in my case, archives), and set out an Action Plan detailing what was expected of me and what I was expected to learn throughout the course of the semester. Over the course of the next few months I will be working on collections from the Missionary Research Library Archives and the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives and will be evaluated by how well I am sticking to the Plan and developing skills that will help further my future career.

Then when I started here at Burke two days ago, Brigette mentioned something interesting to me. She said that out of all the students she had as interns so far, I was the one who was the furthest in her studies. When I looked back on it, I realized she is right. Not only have I completed all the coursework required for my Certificate, but I had also come from a background involving a wide variety of archival internships. Processing everything from museum exhibition posters to a portion of Timothy Leary’s files at The New York Public Library, I have had my fair share of interesting exposure to what the “world of archives” has to offer. I wondered, would my expectations of the internship be different because of all the coursework and experiences I have had?

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that, yes, they would be different – but on the other hand, I also feel that on some level I am just as fresh and new as someone who has just begun their archival studies and has no idea what area of the profession to pursue. For me, it’s always been processing. I love discovering something new each day as I sift through a box or do research on an individual or organization – it’s almost like putting a puzzle together or solving a mystery! But so far, none of the internships that I have held have given me the opportunity to finish out a collection from start to finish. I have never known how it feels to put together a finding aid, to crack open a box for the first time and wonder “what in the world am I going to do with this?” I have always started on collections in media res, so I am really looking forward to seeing the collections I work on through to the end. It’s the skills that I intend to build processing these collections – among them critical thinking, writing, and a stronger grounding in archival theory and practice – that I hope will translate to a future processing job after graduation.

So far, I am holding firm in my dedication to being a processing archivist. As I have already mentioned, I love the mystery and puzzle of it all, the feeling that you never quite know what you are going to see that day. Having been working in reference for the past couple of years, I know that is not the place for me – at least not for the majority of the time, though I know it is just as important for archivists to have these skills as well. But who knows? Only time will tell over the next few months at Burke. I guess I (and you) will have to see if anything changes by then!

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