On the first day of my internship at Burke, Brigette, my internship supervisor, asked if I would write a blog post discussing what I expect from my internship and the overall experience. Would I want to be a processing archivist once the next few months were over? Not having had any experience processing a collection from start to finish (I always seemed to come in the middle of things) or having any experience writing a finding aid, I will admit that I was just a tad apprehensive going into it. On top of that, I was worried that not knowing any of the subject matter or terminology (I’m Jewish) would hinder my work in some way.
Side note: I now know the definition of “Ecumenism” with confidence!
Fast forward about four months later and I have four collections under my belt, with the accompanying finding aids to prove it. I thought the whole process was going to be harder than it actually was for some reason or another, but I’m glad to have been proven wrong. Granted, that is not to say that processing these collections was easy for me. It took me some time to get used to the way an archivist needs to think — how do I organize this? Should there be any series? Subseries? How do I put it all together in a way that will make it easy for the researcher to have access to these materials? There’s so much to think about and to consider, that oftentimes I found myself getting bogged down by all the details instead of doing what needed to be done.
Things got easier for me as I went through my first collection, which was around 10 boxes or so. I transitioned into a one-box collection, and made it all the way up to a 19-box collection in the end. This may not seem daunting for those archivists who have processed 100+ box collections, but for someone with little experience doing so I have to say it was a pretty good feeling. Each collection had its issues, however, and sometimes I found myself doubting all of the knowledge that I had gained thus far. Thank goodness Brigette was always there to help me snap out of my doubts, giving me the confidence to go with my instincts. After all, every archivist does things differently.
This internship provided me with the confidence to do the work of a processing archivist and (hopefully!) do it well. Yes, there will always be stumbling blocks and new things to learn along the way, but now I know that not only am I capable of processing archival collections, but I really enjoy it!