My First Month at Burke

On the verge of completing my fourth week as a summer intern at Burke, I find myself substantially enriched in the field of archives. At the same time, I am keenly aware of how much I don’t know. My internship at Burke is part of my triangle approach to learning as much as I can during this summer of 2013: introductory archival course at Queens College, Burke internship, and participation in Archivist Roundtable activities. My experience at Burke thus far has been, without a doubt, the leading contributor to my knowledge base. This is in no small part due to the tutelage of Project Archivist Brigette Kamsler. From the git go, Brigette has been instructing me on the practical aspects of archiving collections; but in addition she has provided me with the opportunity to dialogue about prevailing trends in the profession, explore ideas regarding my current academic projects, and discuss how to build a record of my experiences and accomplishments for future career opportunities.

I have now completed work on two small collections and await the approval of my second finding aid. The first collection, Dorothy Pecht 35mm Slides, was quite simple and straight forward to process. What inhibited me was my inexperience in researching and my ambivalence regarding how much information to include in the finding aid. Once I realized I had to delve deeper into the subject and provide information not only on Ms. Pecht, but the organization she served as a missionary, I started to better comprehend the process of developing a finding aid. It helps to put myself on the other side of the equation as a researcher periodically as well. The completed finding aid is available online.

The second collection I worked on, International Missionary Union, was fraught with new challenges for me. The collection contained multiple items: photos, newspaper clippings, correspondence, pamphlets, records and the odd Syriac journal, 1849. This finding aid required more extensive research which, initially, I was hesitant to undertake because of the time frame, constraints I had put on myself, without any indications from Brigette. We discussed the average processing time for a collection of this size and that gave me the freedom to conduct in depth research and fine tune the properties of the finding aid, an aspect of preparing the finding aid which I agonize over in the hope of getting it 100% correct.

In addition, I had to box the collection appropriately which took a few attempts. I learned how to correctly box this particular collection and use acid free tissue to cushion the folders thereby diminishing the chance of the folders and its contents being damaged. This task also exposed me to the multitude of different size boxes available to preserve archives.

I found myself a bit emotionally invested in this particular collection. Through my research I learned that the International Missionary Union was dissolved in 1932 and I felt a twinge of sadness when reading this. I had researched it from its initial development in 1884, read about its growth, expansion, and the generous contribution of Dr. Henry Foster who selflessly donated his home and sanitarium for the I.M.U.’s annual meetings. It was liking saying goodbye to an old friend. Corny, yes, but true.

Every day at Burke has been an experience of abundant learning. Even writing this blog has helped me reflect on what I have learned and experienced over the past four weeks and feeds my curiosity about the next collection, the next finding aid, the next task.

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