Internship Project: A Budding Librarian/Archivist’s Perspective

Hello everyone!  I am excited to be a contributor for the Burke’s blog. I am an MLIS student at Long Island University and spent my summer as an archives intern here at the Burke mainly processing the collection of the esteemed Paul F. Knitter, Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union. I started this project back in June and it has been going extremely well. I do not have a background in theological studies, but I did attend catholic school for twelve years – there I took religion as a sixth class – so I am not completely unfamiliar with religious doctrines. I would like to mention that Knitter is best known for his belief in religious pluralism. He was previously Professor Emeritus of Theology at Xavier University where he taught for 28 years before he joined the Union Theological Seminary in 2007. Most of Knitter’s publications and teachings have to do with religious pluralism.

The collection was originally comprised of eighteen cartons. I did an intensive survey of the materials which lasted me about the entire month of June coming in two days a week.

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Once I had a sense of what Knitter’s papers included, I began to physically process the collection according to an arrangement scheme I created and had approved by Rebecca, the Burke’s Project Archivist. In addition to ordering and arranging materials in keeping with the arrangement scheme, physical processing involves relocating materials from the acidic conditions they arrived in into acid free folders and boxes.

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I am also creating the finding aid as I perform the physical processing; this will allow researchers to access materials in person, through CLIO and the Burke’s website. The bulk of the collection is course files for the classes Knitter taught at the Union Theological Seminary, Xavier University, and other institutions. The course files are filled with intriguing topics including feminism in religion and inter-religious dialogue.

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The collection also contains Knitter’s thesis, critiques of his works (notably from the Vatican), correspondence, and other memorabilia that would be intriguing to anyone who is interested in Knitter, pluralism, or both. One aspect of physical processing that I especially enjoy is preserving materials. Many papers are acidic and can turn brittle. Metal paper clips also rust.

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They can be placed in archival envelopes and plastic paper clips are used instead of metal.


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I enjoy this project because I get the chance to help preserve the history of a community for years to come. I also enjoy creating ways for others to access those materials as easily as possible because I believe they are more valuable when used. These, I believe, are some of the fundamentals of why we do what we do. I’m very glad to have been asked to be a part of this experience.


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