There is a lot of information! This is a recurring thought when it comes to the field of archives. There are standards and there are schemas, there are rules and there are processes. Each organization has its own in addition to those endorsed by the SAA. My first day as an intern at Burke was no different. It was all about learning about the rules and regulations as well as the structure of the department and yes, there was a lot of information to remember. As my supervisor Brigette, introduced me to people and walked me through stacks I struggled to absorb all the information I was being given. I knew that there were things I would forget, particularly all the acronyms, but I still struggled to commit them to memory.
Like every newbie I was filled with excitement but also panic. I worried about my performance and giving the internship my best effort. I wanted to learn and make a difference with my work; also there was the matter of leaving an impression so that my work here could serve as a testament of what I could do as a professional. As I received my tour I was struck by the beauty of the building and the way the collections fit within it. I paid attention to the arrangement of the space and the way in which the old worked next to the new. I was particularly captivated by the spiral staircase; there was nothing remarkable about it except that it represented where the archival field used to be and where it still is in people’s imagination. Working for a traditional archive meant that you were in a position of power and getting access to these collections meant you were in a position of privilege. But yet here I was, a non-ivy league student working uncovering history and current “closed” records to provide access to the masses. It is exciting to be a part of this shift and is even more exciting to be a part of it at a place like Burke where history and tradition are still present in its architecture and its design.
I was also pleased to learn that the internship would be very much hands on. I would not simply be ordering papers for someone else to process but I would be contributing my knowledge and getting my hands dirty. I have to admit the stack of readings seemed intimidating at first but when I realized their relevant nature to what I am going through as a student and as a future archivist I was grateful for them. I also thought that the idea of a scavenger hunt was pretty cool. Often you work in places that do not encourage you to learn about the institution as a whole and trap you in a department as if you where the demoted planet of pluto. In short, my first day is new and overwhelming but nothing sort of exciting.