Last Day at the Burke

This semester flew by far too quickly, and with the end of the semester arriving, my last day at The Burke has arrived as well. My brief time here was wonderful and something that I will look back on and treasure. As mentioned in my expectations piece, I just wanted to gain exposure to the Archives field. Starting this internship, I wanted to fill my curiosity with Archives and Archival processing. However at the same time, I was a bit terrified at the thought that I may ruin a collection and make matters worse with my lack of proper ‘archiving knowledge’.

Brigette was one of the greatest mentors I have encountered in my Graduate career. She is well organized and gives you readings that help prepare you and give you a better understanding of Archiving. Brigette’s presence has been comforting and encouraging. I never thought that in my short time here (once a week for a little less than a semester) that I’d be able to go through two collections. I was able to take my time with these two collections and get a proper plan in order for each. Brigette and I talked today about the “More Product, Less Process” concept. I think it’s incredibly valuable to be able to start learning about archives by going through more processing and less product. I am incredibly thankful to Brigette and the Burke for giving me this opportunity. It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling once you complete a collection.

As I sit here and stare at my boxes with their beautiful shiny new labels on them, I remember all the time, patience and care they took. Removing each staple carefully to make sure the pages don’t rip, appropriately interleaving acid-free paper in between each group of papers, delicately unfolding the pages to make sure no damage occurs, carefully handling photographs etc. etc… It all sounds pretty simple. But when you are going through this process and you keep in mind that these pages are so fragile and need to be treated with the utmost care, you treat each step as if it is the most important step in the processing process. Taking boxes full of papers, going through them all and trying to make sense of them all is no easy job. But as you turn each page and as you start making sense of the collection, that becomes the driving force that allows you to push through the long process. Realizing that this collection may help a researcher, even if one piece of paper in this collection may help someone, that was more than enough for me to keep going through each page and figuring out a way to organize them all in a sensible matter. It was incredibly helpful to have Brigette around. I was able to ask for advice and to go over my thought process for the new organization of the collection. Talking through my plan and my ideas for the categories with Brigette was a great resource. I think when it comes to archival processing, it’s best to have someone to talk to for feedback.

The collection I worked on, Church World Service Records, was an amazing collection to work with in that the Organization still exists today. The articles and documents I had in my hands were some of the first pieces of the Organization that has helped it grow to the large and successful organization it is today. It was interesting to read about the history and mission about the organization on their website and to see the documents that the Burke has.

Overall, this was a great learning experience. I know that if the opportunity presents itself, I will be able to take on an Archival project.  Having a better grasp of archiving and the core theories that go along with archiving, it helps me look at the field differently and reminds me to always remember that this may be of benefit to someone else. As a librarian, I believe it’s my job to safeguard knowledge and present it to my users the way it is, and when archiving, I felt this being put into action. I’d like to thank Brigette and the staff at the Burke that have made this experience not only a great learning experience, but also very enjoyable.

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