Last Day…Final Words…

As I walked through the large heavy double doors of the main entrance to Union Theological Seminary this morning I realized it would be my last time walking down the cool glazed brick paved hallway and wending my way to the Burke Library entrance. The summer of 2013 has flown by and I am sure part of the quick passage of time is due to my relatively brief but highly educational and enjoyable tenure as an Archival Intern at the Burke Archive. Working under the tutelage of Brigette Kamsler I have been exposed to and gained hands on experience in the wild and often times dusty world of a working archive.

Initially fearful I would forget my Columbia UNI every time I needed to log onto the University system, petrified I would somehow mangle fragile, priceless and irreplaceable documents, I found myself looking forward to the two days each week I spent on the fifth floor of the Burke Library. I am pleased to report I did not break anything nor have I had to have my UNI tattooed onto my forearm. In addition, I have learned so much, not only regarding archives and archiving but in personal and professional development. I am saddened by the fact this is my last day at Burke but am grateful for the experience and the knowledge I will take with me out the main entrance of Union Theological Seminary when I leave.

Not only was I allowed to rehouse, access and inventory portions of an incredibly large and disorganized collection the Missionary Research Library Archival Collection, but I was given the responsibility of organizing, re-housing and drafting finding aids for three smaller collections within MRL itself, as well as one from the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives (WAB). Once the finding aids were finished we published them online onto the Burke Archives website, created and updated records in Voyager for the Columbia University Library System’s CLIO OPAC and then announced this fact through a swath of social media platforms! Lest the reader think all an archivist does is wade through boxes of papers and ephemera nobody has seen for long stretches of time – I was also given a chance to learn EAD (Encoded Archival Description) which employs the same ilk of XML tagging the SEC employs in its online filing system EDGAR.

The first collection I worked with was the Kagawa Toyohiko Papers, the subject of my previous post – Happy Camper at Burke. I followed the 15 box Kagawa collection with three smaller collections the Loren E. Noren Papers, the Charles Tudor Leber Travel Correspondence and the Lutheran World Federation Records. Each of these collections provided a unique and distinct glimpse into the past through either personal letters, conference minutes or statistical reports.

Charles Tudor Leber traveled the globe following World War II and the Leber Travel Correspondence collection features missives he sent home to the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. Leber witnessed the social and economic turmoil of four continents and his observations are recorded in his highly detailed letters. Loren E. Noren was a missionary from the American Baptist Church and was stationed first in mainland China and subsequently in Hong Kong during the 1930’s through 1950’s. During his time in China he was incarcerated by the Communists! His collection at Burke consists solely of a statistical and detailed report he made of the churches within Hong Kong, the congregation numbers, financial information and the like. The sheer amount of work Noren poured into his study is incredible. The final collection I worked on was the Lutheran World Federation Papers which include the minutes and documents from the Lutheran World Federation Assembly held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1957. These documents were housed in a number of different locations and the Burke Archive collection includes three sets: one in English, one in German and one in Norwegian. The fact my work in rehousing, organizing and creating finding aids for these collections will provide access and hopefully use of these collections really makes me proud.

Brigette is an incredible manager and the time she takes to educate and include her bevy of interns in the multitudinous tasks her position as the Luce Grant Project Archivist at the Burke Archive entails was not lost on me. I was introduced through practice and readings to best practices in the field of archiving. More Product, Less Process became a mantra for my summer of 2013. In addition to helping with the work at hand, Brigette made sure to take the time to discuss future career options, job search techniques and the like. She showed myself and fellow interns her online portfolio, encouraged us to make ones for ourselves and discussed best practices in employing social media for future career success. I really cannot say how grateful I am for all the knowledge she imparted to me this summer.

I really cannot believe that this post will be my last on the Burke Archives Blog, that today will be my last day up in the tower and that I will not see the friendly and supportive faces of those I have worked with and around much of the summer. But like most good things in life, this internship too must come to a close. I know I will carry not only the work place skills I have learned and been exposed to but also the intangible benefits from having worked under so skilled a manager and mentor as Brigette.

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