Tag Archives: Burke Archives

Hanging Out With Ulanov

Since the beginning of 2016, I have been working to finish up some processing projects in the archives. In particular, I have taken over the initial processing of the papers from former Union alumna and Professor Ann Belford Ulanov. These papers start with her work from her student years at Radcliffe College and end as faculty at Union Theological Seminary. A much larger portion of the collection covers Dr. Ulanov’s career within the Psych and Religion Department at Union as well as the manuscripts she produced.

Erin blog post

Although it is always such a wonderful feeling to finish up a project, continuing to process another person’s work can at times be difficult. Sometimes you have an outline of what to expect and others you will just have to dive right in and see for yourself. For this collection, a fair amount has already been processed and what I have been doing is tackling sub-series, piece by piece, to make sure that what it contains does not belong elsewhere. This has been my first collection where I am using my judgment in such a way and it has been very educational.

Of course archivists cannot really read while doing this initial level of processing. I just have to peruse enough to figure out what each piece is and put it with similar items in large folders. Yet still, I love that I get a sense of who a person is by their papers. What kind of correspondence did they keep? What voice did they use with students, peers, and members of the community? What mementos did they keep years later? How did they organize it all?

With the portion Dr. Ulanov’s papers that I have been working through, I have been able to get an interesting portrait of who she was during her time here. It spans decades and I even saw hints of old arguments that are still alive on campus today. As I write this, I am winding down to the last box out of 7 in the last sub-series to be accounted for. There is still quite a ways to go, but I feel getting it all done will leave me with a lovely sense of accomplishment.

Update from an Intern

As I write my second entry as an intern of the Burke Library, I am struck by the great contrast between this day and my first day in January. In time for a number of faiths’ holidays, New York has at long last emerged from a long winter and spring has arrived. And, thanks to this internship, I can finally say that I have processed some archival collections!

Most recently, I completed work on the papers of Thomas Samuel Hastings (1827-1911), who served Union Theological Seminary as a professor and president for many years following a long career as a pastor, primarily at West Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Working with these papers was brilliant exposure to the kinds of materials prevalent in late-19th-century and early-20th-century archives, such as handwritten and typed correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and photographs and allowed me to practice a wide range of basic preservation techniques while handling and re-housing the collection.

The intellectual content was also absorbing, as the collection contains significant correspondence with John C. Brown, a banker and long-time member of the seminary’s board of directors, that touches upon the Charles Briggs affair.

As president of Union Theological Seminary, Hastings was intimately involved in defining the seminary’s position within the larger theological debate then occurring regarding revision of the Westminster Confession and marshaling support for Briggs during his trial for heresy (described in greater detail by Ruth Tonkiss Cameron in a blog entry last month). Researchers interested in that particular moment in history will find rich material for review, such as the May 31, 1893 letter to Crosby in which Hastings’ strong feelings with respect to whether Briggs should withdraw from the church or merely from the heresy case are conveyed. Hastings avers that “to withdraw from the church would be to desert his [Briggs’] friends, to desert the minority and to give up the whole history of the Presbyterian Church to the despotism which traditionalism and bigotry are now maintaining” [1].

Letter 1

While this excerpt from Hastings’ private correspondence could enrich one’s understanding of an epochal moment in American Presbyterian history, the seminary’s ultimate support of Briggs and his faculty status is well known and related in published sources. One of the special aspects of accessing archival materials, however, is that it enables one to try to shift the vantage point from which one seeks to view past events: to be not just a consumer of an official, third-party history, statements prepared for posterity, or later reminiscences of a participant.

­Viewing this letter within the context of the Thomas Samuel Hastings Papers, one can compare and contrast it with other letters to Crosby regarding board matters and try to develop a sense of the weight that various actions and opinions were given by participants at the time. Working with this particular collection has also given me an appreciation for the value to researchers of the existence of institutional collections like Union Theological Seminary’s archives, as I am beginning to see how individual archives, such as those of Charles Briggs, Thomas Samuel Hastings, and Williams Adams Brown, to name just a few, that arise from the same affiliation can “speak” to each other and form a more complete picture of past events.

I have been enjoying interning at the Burke Library immensely and I am glad that some time remains before the end of the semester. I look forward to continuing to learn something new each week at the library and am hopeful that I can process several more collections over the next month.


 

[1] Letter to John C. Brown, UTS 1: Thomas Samuel Hastings Papers, series 1, box 1, and folder 4, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

My First Day as an Intern: So Much to Learn!

Today is my first day as an intern at the Burke Library, working with Brigette on the UTS archives. One of the tasks of getting started is to write a blog post about what I hope the internship will teach me. You can see some entries from my predecessors and fellow interns here, here and here.

So, on to what I hope to learn from working as an intern…

The short answer:

Everything!

I come to this internship having completed most of the requisite number of credits for my Masters in Library Science at Pratt. I’ve studied all kinds of things related to digital libraries and libraries’ use of social media in outreach and research. I’ve learned the basics of metadata and collection development.

However, none of my coursework so far has incorporated more than a cursory study of archives. And I’ve been kicking myself about that since I started talking to Brigette. I had clues that I might be interested in archives: I tend to pore over antique cookbooks and recipe collections, and rummage through bins of vintage photographs at yard sales; and I got positively starry-eyed over maps George Washington had drawn, when I saw them on a school trip to the Library of Congress. And yet, I haven’t taken so much as an introductory archives class. What have I been thinking?

The learning curve of getting started at Burke will include more than just the usual directional and procedure orientation to how things work here. I know I need to develop my understanding of archival theory and procedures from the ground up. I come to this internship with a rudimentary knowledge of how to work with archives: wear gloves for photographs, use pencil to take notes.

I’m sitting at a desk surrounded by shelves of tantalizing gray boxes. As this internship progresses, I look forward to learning my way around the care and documentation of the knowledge contained in these boxes and the rest of the collection, piece by piece. I’ve started reading about archives, so I can begin to fit these mysterious boxes into a larger context of what archiving means.

I’m also looking forward to working on developing ideas and content for the social media at Burke. I’m looking forward to learning more about what works best for archives and libraries on social media and using different platforms to showcase the great resources in the collections here.

What are some of the discoveries you’ve made in the collections here? Tell me about your favorites in the comments!

Final Thoughts on My Last Day at Burke

As I sat on the subway during my commute this morning, it occurred to me that this is the last time I will be heading uptown and entering the doors of the Union Theological Seminary and finding my way to the Burke Library. Interning at the Burke Library Archives this summer has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Throughout the summer I processed five collections; arranging and rehousing the material, writing finding aids, uploading them to Burke’s website, editing Voyager catalogue records, and creating EAD versions. Along with these five collections, I have also worked with Brigette and my fellow interns to tackle the immense collection of administrative files created by the Missionary Research Library (MRL).

Throughout the summer I worked on three collections from MRL 12: Ecumenical/World and two from the WAB collection. The first collection I processed was the Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions Records, which documented the largest international missionary conference held in New York in 1900. This was the most extensive collection I independently processed this summer, with a total of six manuscript boxes as well as an oversize item. After the Ecumenical Conference collection, I worked on the Board of Foreign Missions of the Netherlands Reformed Church Records, Preparation of Missionaries Records, the John Ferguson Moore Papers, and the Hendrik Kraemer Papers. Hendrik Kraemer was a Dutch Reformed missionary leader and professor who gave a series of lectures on The Christian Faith and Non-Christian Religions at the University of Geneva in 1954. The collection consists solely of that lecture series. Similarly, the John Ferguson Moore Papers document the Protestant author and Y.M.C.A railroad secretary’s research on Roman Catholicism and the Church’s opinion towards secret societies through an incomplete typescript and reports.

I personally found the two other MRL collections to be slightly more challenging than the Moore and Kraemer Papers. The Preparation of Missionaries Records is an artificial collection that was created by the Missionary Research Library by gathering information and material from a variety of sources on the subject of missionary and personnel training. Since the material was collected by MRL as a subject file it was necessary to keep the material together, even though some of the material comes from organizations found in other Burke collections. Another challenging collection was the Board of Foreign Missions of the Netherlands Reformed Church. Not only was much of this material written in Dutch, forcing me to utilize online translators to determine the subject matter, it was originally two separate collections. Series 1 of this collection was originally called the Netherlands Missionary Society Papers, but in researching the organization and discovering that the society eventually merged with the Netherlands Board of Foreign Missions, I determined that the documents should be brought together into a single collection.

When I first started this internship I had already had some experience processing collections, but working with Brigette and the MRL and WAB collections provided me with the opportunity to really hone those skills. These collections document organizations and individuals that have left lasting impressions on missionary and religious scholarship, and I am excited that the work I have done to arrange and document the collections will contribute to a future researcher’s work.

Working with Brigette has been an invaluable experience; she truly wants her interns to have the best experience possible and always takes time to answer questions, teach new skills and discuss best practices and strategies for tackling challenging material. Not only did Brigette impart her knowledge of processing, she also took the time to discuss professional development with me and my fellow interns. Brigette encouraged us to utilize Web 2.0 technology to our advantage, and she showed us her online portfolio and gave us a tutorial on how to create one ourselves. Though I will miss coming to Burke twice a week and working with Brigette and my fellow interns, I am grateful for the experience and the knowledge I have gained from the opportunity.

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.

Happy Camper at Burke

It has been over a month since I began making the trip to the Burke Library Archives at Union Theological Seminary twice a week for my archival internship. Under the guidance of Brigette Kamsler I have learned an immense amount about the art of archiving. My fears from the first day (see 1st Day – New Internship) have been assuaged and allayed. Surrounded by acid free boxes both full and empty, surprises and variety abound.


Most people seem to think the work an archivist does is stuffy and boring – let’s face it – most people have no clue what an archivist does! And I probably did not have much of one either prior to starting at Burke either. Over the course of the past six weeks I have begun to learn and really appreciate the tasks of an archivist: accessing, processing and organizing documents and ephemera into cohesive usable research aids; creating documentation of a collection’s organization and order; providing access to research materials (frequently primary sources) to library patrons through finding aids. Often, a collection is donated by an individual and the precise order in which the collection was donated is in fact part of the archival nature of the materials. Other times the material in a collection may have been amassed over a longer period of time by more than one individual or institution and so the archivist gets to embark on the task of creating order and imposing an organization schema on the materials.


During my time at Burke I have had the opportunity to work on a sizeable collection – the Kagawa Toyohiko Papers. Kagawa was an early 20th century Japanese Evangelical preacher who traveled to the United States on speaking tours four times between the 1930’s and the 1960’s. The collection has undergone numerous rounds of processing and continues to grow as new materials are donated and further materials keep popping up in the Missionary Research Library collection. The most recent additions included correspondence with an American preacher Stanley Armstrong Hunter which were donated by a descendant of Mr. Hunter as well as extensive correspondences regarding Kagawa’s 1954 tour of the United States. The latter set of materials was unearthed in the unprocessed papers of the Missionary Research Library.


While the nature of the material may seem dry or bizarre to many, the fact there was a world famous Japanese Evangelical preacher whose American National Committee headquarters were in Brooklyn, NY has been one of my most exciting factoids for the summer of 2013. Part of the job of an archivist is, as I mentioned earlier, to draft a collection finding aid. This finding aid lists not only what is in the collection box by box and folder by folder but provides background material on the subject matter, individual or organization the collection focuses on. Reading about Kagawa I found myself going down a highly enjoyable rabbit hole – I have read numerous slightly varied accounts of his childhood, his adolescence, his introduction to Christianity, his early years preaching in the slums of Japan. I have also been able to ever so slightly glean an idea of Kagawa’s changing beliefs and doctrine. The man lived in heady times not only in Japanese history but world history – he witnessed both World War’s, Japanese colonialism and the rise of Communism. His particular brand of Christianity took much of these events going on in the world into account. I have also found collections relating to Kagawa in other archives around the world. There is an archive and research center dedicated to the man in Tokyo, Japan. There are other small collections of papers of his followers in places like the archives at Southern Illinois University. For an individual who has always been curious about just about anything you put in front of her, the opportunity to chase down information and learn about an obscure former nominee for a Nobel Prize in Literature has been fascinating and dare I say exciting.


Another project the interns working under Brigette Kamsler have been working on this summer is the extensive Missionary Research Library project. We are all taking bits and pieces of this large seemingly unwieldy collection of papers and beginning to create order and sense out of it. Brigette runs an incredibly well oiled machine with interns working collectively and individually on the massive MRL collection. Currently I am separating MRL administrative papers from the larger collection of archival materials and housing these in archival acid free boxes. While perhaps not the most exciting sounding task, I know my efforts are part of a larger project and I enjoy my work knowing it is part of a larger effort. Once the Missionary Research Library papers are completely available to the public, I will know I had a small part to play in that project.

Surprises in the Archives: Reflecting on My First Month at the Burke

A month has passed since I started at Burke as a summer intern, and I now find myself reflecting upon the last four weeks. While I came into this internship with previous processing experience, I have found that I am constantly learning something new at Burke, whether it’s learning how to wrap a book in acid-free tissue or to avoid using the word “miscellaneous” in a finding aid. Perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that the archive holds many surprises that are just waiting to reveal themselves.

For the first half of June, I worked on a collection documenting the 1900 Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions. This conference ran from April 21 to May 1, 1900 and was held at Carnegie Hall and local churches in New York City. It was the largest formal religious event ever held in the United States and the largest international missionary conference ever. It brought together missionaries from around the world to discuss various topics, including evangelism, education, and geographical surveys of missionary work. One of the most fascinating aspects of this collection is the vast amount of documentation related to female missionaries, particularly in regards to “Women’s Work” sectional meetings. Processing the collection was relatively straightforward, as it largely consisted of two types of records: stenographic reports (essentially transcripts of entire meetings or sections of the conference) and conference papers (reports, papers, and addresses presented at the conference). As I began to arrange the collection chronologically, it became apparent that certain dates were not represented in the material. Particularly troubling was the absence of material from April 21, the opening day of the conference. I knew from the conference program that several notable people had given opening addresses on that date, and I was interested to read the addresses given by William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt but resigned myself to the fact that these records appeared to be lost.

For the last two weeks I have moved on from the Ecumenical Conference and have been working on the vast array of administrative records from the Missionary Research Library. When I arrived at Burke today I expected to continue with this. However, Brigette informed me when I sat down at my desk that she had found more material related to the Ecumenical Conference. As someone who loves to cross things off to-do lists, having to return to my first project was, as Brigette said when she informed me, “bad news.” However, I quickly came to realize that this surprise was in no way bad. As I sat at my desk reading President William McKinley’s opening address to the Ecumenical Conference, I realized that my previous definition of complete is insufficient to working in an archive. There are always going to be surprises and magically appearing material needed to be dealt with. I am looking forward to seeing what other surprises the Burke Archives have in store for me this summer. The completed finding aid for MRL 12: Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions, NYC, 1900 is now available online.

1st Day – New Intern Posting

Today is my first day at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary as an archival intern. First days are always exciting and nerve racking. What will the new desk I am working at look like? What if my new boss doesn’t like my outfit? What if I trip on that spiral staircase mentioned in the internship posting I responded to? These and many other random, rather frenetic thoughts began racing through my head pretty much as soon as I woke up this morning.

I applied for the position because the posting on the Pratt Institute School of Library and Information Science list serve specifically mentioned Japanese language skills as being a benefit to the internship experience. In my time at Pratt Institute no internship posting has advertised a need for Japanese language – a skill I had the luck and experience to acquire as a young child and pursue throughout my first academic stint in undergraduate and graduate studies. I am eager to pursue a project that melds my current academic pursuit of working within a library or archive with my previous academic field East Asian Studies with a focus on Japanese studies.

My first half day at Burke has consisted of a tour of the facilities past a mind boggling assorted of acronym labeled archival boxes, a fantastic gothic inspired glass floored set of stacks and a small taste of the kind of work I will be engaging in this summer under the guidance of Brigette Kamsler an archivist at the Burke Library.  I have to admit that just like when I applied to the Library and Information Science program at Pratt Institute, my expectations and ideas about what is possible are always far below the water mark of what the actual experience will bring into my life.

Through the completion of a variety of other internship experiences I have discovered my affinity for tackling projects of organization and re-housing of materials. There is quite a lot of material here at Burke! I have been given a brief outline of the initial project I will be working on with a fellow intern which is really exciting – group work- the bane of many graduate students – is something I really enjoy. I understand that once the initial group project is completed I will be delving into working on a collection of materials concerning the American speaking tours and engagements of a Japanese evangelical preacher and social activist Kagawa Toyohiko.

Each experience and internship opportunity I have pursued while studying at Pratt has allowed me great growth both personally and professionally. I am eager to see how my time at Burke affects me and how I am able to affect the ongoing efforts of the archivists at the Burke Library.

Be prepared!

If Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Athena have taught us anything, it’s to be prepared. We all knew that both storms were coming, and we were able to prepare to the best of our abilities, but nobody knew what the extent of the damage would be. If that has taught us anything else, it’s that even our best attempts can fall short. There is no excuse not to have a plan!

So how can a cultural institution like Burke, or any of the other Columbia libraries, be and remain prepared for a natural disaster like Sandy? (Based off of Columbia University Libraries’ Disaster Response Manual)

1) Keep an updated emergency contact list on hand, including the names and numbers of your institution’s preservation and conservation department.

2) Be prepared with all the necessary supplies, and replenish when needed. Such supplies might include plastic tarps, buckets, paper towels, and other cleaning supplies.

3) Assign priorities to certain groups of materials, so that they will be attended to first in the event of an emergency.

4) Ensure the safety and security of the area in question. Make sure the exits are clear, that the security systems are working, et cetera.

5) Know the floorplan where the collections are located. Note the location of fire extinguishers, emergency exits, sprinklers, et cetera, and make revisions to said floorplan when necessary.

6) Reduce the potential risks to collections, including both fire and water damage. Make sure, for example, that collections are not located on the floor (in case of flooding), and make sure that appliances such as space heaters are turned off.

7) Document all reports of maintenance problems in your location and be sure to report all leaks and other issues to facilities, whether or not damage has resulted from these problems. Proper attention to these and other issues will help curb future problems.

It is important to note that as your institution evolves, so must your disaster preparedness plan. Collections may move, floorplans may change, and key staff members come and go throughout the years. Keeping your plan up to date and making sure that all staff members are continually updated is integral in to maintaining disaster preparedness in your institution. And while having a plan in place is no guarantee that your institution is safe from disaster, you still have done all that you can do to prepare. The rest, unfortunately, is up to the unpredictable force that is Mother Nature.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Career: Interning at the Burke Library Archives

Scouring boxes of papers for an indication of original order, picking out rusty staples, developing an appreciation for acid-free paper, trying not to walk into film crews, eating lunch in a pristine courtyard, and translating the disturbing reports of prisoners of war: these were just a few of the things I did as an intern at the Burke Library Archives earlier this year. This internship was my first foray into archival processing, and I admit I’m hooked. For someone wondering whether or not to intern at Burke, here are a few reasons why you should do it.

First and foremost, Brigette, the Project Archivist and my internship supervisor, is an absolutely fantastic mentor. She has a unique way of combining flawless professionalism with warm guidance and encouragement. I was immediately impressed with how organized and prepared she was at my interview; never before had I had an interviewer answer so many of the questions I’d prepared before I even got to ask them. Brigette’s amazing guidance continued on my first day when she gave me a stack of background readings that constituted a crash course in the most essential knowledge to begin processing archival collections, including readings on both the nuts and bolts of processing and what it means to be an archivist on a more philosophical level. I’m drawn to both the hands-on work of processing and the greater calling of archivists to be activists and advocates of their profession in addition to being stewards of their collections, so I ate this up.

The second reason you should intern at the Burke is that you get to work in a beautiful place. The professor for my Archives Management course this semester pointed out on the first day that archives are either housed in the basement or in the attic. In Burke’s case, we’re in the attic. I realized the first day during my tour that while the Union Theological Seminary is a gorgeous old building (hence the film crews using it for various TV shows), it is also gorgeous old building, and housing valuable historical primary materials under a potentially leaky roof is sometimes just part of the everyday pain and risk of being an archivist. I also admit, though, that the archives work environment is alluring to me. There was something about the inclusion of a spiral staircase and dusty work environment in the internship description that took me back to my undergraduate days of being a theater properties master, and it just somehow seemed fitting to get back into that kind of a workspace. During a tour of the Burke my first day, I was taken up that spiral staircase to see where the Missionary Research Library (MRL) and William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library (WAB) collections that I would be working with were housed, and again I was charmed.

Last but not least, the experience you get working with Brigette at the Burke Library Archives is invaluable. After gaining firm grounding in the space and basic knowledge of archives processing, I was entrusted with processing a few small collections. Brigette’s guidance was absolutely essential to begin with, and I was grateful to have the feeling that I was able to ask any question at any time.

I began to translate a collection of reports from German-speaking missionaries stationed in Cameroon who were taken as prisoners of war in 1914 when the English and French armies took control of the area – see the Finding Aid for more. These reports were fascinating (you can read about them in another blog post). I was very happy to have the chance to use my German language skills to contribute to the archives in a unique way. This again was thanks to Brigette, who was sensitive and creative enough as a supervisor to offer me projects that built on my existing skills.

My most significant project at the Burke was processing the papers of John J. Banninga, a collection that was highlighted as particularly significant in the Henry Luce Foundation grant funding our work on the MRL and WAB collections. This collection includes a wealth of information on the efforts to unite Christian churches in South India, an initiative that took decades to realize and encompassed the greater part of Banninga’s career. The letters, reports, and clippings he kept reveal deep complexities and sometimes surprising disagreements that arose in the attempt to bring together churches that function largely autonomously elsewhere in the world. Both processing the actual papers and researching Banninga and the Church of South India gave me a peek into a discipline and an area of the world of which I have very limited knowledge. One of the reasons I decided to become an archivist/librarian is the opportunity to continually learn while simultaneously enabling future research.

I can say there was no part of my internship at the Burke Library Archives that I did not enjoy. The best times were when my finished finding aids were approved, and when I was able to publish them online and see them come up in the Columbia University Library catalog. I learned a great deal about processing archives, and made a very small contribution to research. Perhaps most importantly, though, this internship was the beginning of what I think (and hope) will be a long and beautiful career.

Lea was recently hired as a part-time processing archivist at the Center for Jewish History in New York City.