Tag Archives: students

Saying Goodbye to Burke…For Now

My last day really snuck up on me. One can really get lost in boxes and boxes of unprocessed archival material, it seems. But all good things must come to an end, and for me, that took place today. After a great 7 month internship at Burke, I closed the lid on my last archival box.

I can’t express to you how great this internship has been! I’ve learned the entire archival process, from acquisition to finding aid promotion. I’ve seen great material that paints a picture of the world the missionaries encountered. And I’ve worked with the amazing staff at the Burke Library. Brigette, the project archivist, was an outstanding teacher and mentor. From the very beginning she made sure I knew what we were working on and why. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the collection, knowing where everything is and how the entire collection is connected. The rest of the staff is stellar as well. They are insanely smart, friendly, welcoming, and passionate about the work they are doing at the library. If you ever get a chance to work with them on a research project, I suggest you do.

Though my internship time is done with the Burke library, my professional and personal relationship will continue. I look forward to my next step, knowing that Burke is the reason I’m taking it at all.

From Finding Aids to Floppy Disks

I spent yesterday and today getting acquainted with my first archival box. To learn and get experience with writing a finding aid, I’m working with materials that already have a finding aid, “The Chinese Church of Christ in Korea papers 1908-1975.” Some of what needed to be done was basic copy editing and formatting the document.

Korea cover photoBut the fun part was getting to explore the folders in the box. Part of what I was doing was comparing the box content to the descriptions in the finding aid, to make sure that it was accurate, and as detailed as it needed to be.

Exploring documents that ranged from handwritten letters to missionary history to brochures about Korea, I had to remind myself not to read the documents themselves. Processing an archive isn’t about reading the documents. Handing me pages and pages of typewritten and handwritten documents and telling me not to read them takes willpower! I only skimmed. I told myself I was familiarizing myself with the documents, and checking to see if any details jumped out that would improve the level of historical detail in the finding aid, to help researchers (and those searching on the web) find it, with better keywords. Yeah! That’s what I was doing. Not reading! No reading here!

The documents that I absolutely did not read covered the work Chinese missionaries were doing to establish missions and mission schools in Korea, covering a time and place in history I had known absolutely nothing about. And now I’m curious to learn more. (Maybe a stop by the UTS library on the way home!)

After I submitted my work on the finding aid for edits, my next task was to work my way through a box of floppy disks, get the documents onto the hard drive so they could be processed. Some of the disks I handled had one or two files on them, mostly Word documents, sometimes a PowerPoint or PDF. It is a little bit mind boggling to think about the fact that only a few decades ago, our portable media could hold mere kilobytes or megabytes of data. And now, several gigabytes can fit on an even smaller device.

docs and floppiesToday, I worked with, and handled documents that were typed or handwritten in the early 20th century. And floppy disks with documents saved in the early 2000’s.

I’d call that a very good day!

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

This week is the last week of my Spring Internship at the Burke Library. It has been such a great experience! I’ve received hands-on training on the entire archival experience: the initial processing, creating the finding aid, managing it in its digital form, and broadcasting it for all the world to see. In addition, I have seen the ins and outs of running an academic library, including the not-so-glamorous sides, like vermin patrol and how to Macgyver a situation where you must move 80 boxes with only a silver cart, one narrow elevator  that can’t fit you AND boxes, and several mini-stairways (answer: through teamwork and running). The Burke Library has provided me a valuable internship where I was part of the team, given creative freedom, and trained from day 1 on what archiving is and why it matters. Brigette, Liz, Beth, and Matthew have been great coworkers, and I have enjoyed working with them all.

What I've been looking at all semester

What I’ve been looking at all semester

However, it’s not the end! The semester is wrapping up, but I will be staying on during the summer as well, interning for credit from my graduate program at Pratt. I will be doing more archival work, but in a much different capacity. As I referenced in my last blog post, we are wrapping up a 3 year archiving project. My work this summer will be to help finish this project, updating finding aids, more DAM and EAD training, and contributing to evaluation summaries as well. I will also be doing more work with Burke Director Beth Bidlack, learning more about what goes into running a library. Finally, I am attending the American Theological Library Association Annual Conference next month, to see how theological and academic libraries are run across the country, and learn best practices across a wide array of topics.

I’m looking forward to continuing my work at Burke, and know that I will continue to gain valuable skills and connections. Thanks for reading this semester, and I’ll see you in the summer!

New Intern Thoughts and Expectations

This past year has been an exciting one; last May I graduated Rutgers University with a B.A. in History and English, and I can now say that I have successfully completed my first year of graduate school. Looking back, I remember thinking about my post-college plans and how unsure I was. Pursuing a career as an archivist wasn't an obvious path for me until my final year at Rutgers. During the summer between my junior and senior years, I completed a rewarding and ultimately invaluable internship with an autograph dealer. Though I had previously been introduced to archives through a class at Rutgers, this experience was my first hands-on interaction with primary documents. It was through this internship that I learned to love paging through old letters and documents and deciphering 19th century script. During that summer I had the opportunity to view firsthand some truly remarkable documents, but this was also something that I found problematic. Due to the nature of that business, I was going to be one of the few people who would be able to see these historically important items, and after that summer, I began to seriously consider how I might be able to work with primary documents in a public setting. That experience led me to the Masters program in Archives and Public History at New York University and this internship at the Burke Library Archives working on collections from the Missionary Research Library Archives and the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives. 

As part of my coursework at NYU, this past semester I completed an internship at Rutgers University Special Collections. This experience was my first true experience working in an archive, and I was fortunate enough to be able to process an entire collection from beginning to end. That experience was truly formative and has motivated me to take the path of a processing archivist. The initial fear of manipulating original order and removing important documents gave way to wonder and a sense of confidence, as I discovered new avenues to the collection and fit them together within the overall scope of the collection. The collection itself was large enough that it kept me busy for an entire semester; I am now able to say that I processed the Mohegan Colony Association Collection and completed the finding aid for it as well.

Though I now have experience processing a complete archival collection, I believe that I still have much learning to do. I am looking forward to working with Brigette this summer and learning from her. In order to be a successful processing archivist, I need to gain confidence in my skills. For the first month or so at Rutgers I was hesitant to rearrange the collection and tended to second-guess myself. When I first spoke to Brigette about this internship, she advised that she would initially provide hands-on guidance and have me start by processing a smaller collection. Though I am interested in learning about the materials within the collections, it is Brigette's willingness to teach and help me gain that confidence in my abilities that has me excited for my summer at the Burke Library Archives.

Internship Expectations

I am currently in my last semester as a Graduate student at Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Sciences program. I am also pursuing an Advanced Certificate in Museum Librarianship. I think each time I think about this being my last semester I get a little sad. I’m incredibly happy that I will be completing my last semester; but I would like a little more time to just learn more. Being in my last semester, everyone told me to take it easy and not to take on too many activities. To me, this idea is a difficult one to grasp. I always enjoy doing numerous activities to try to expose myself to as many different areas of the field as possible. I have a love for museums and history. Simply thinking of museums puts a smile on my face. I’ve always had an interest in archives, the problem was I never had any experience and I was scared I’d walk in and mess something up. I guess to put it bluntly, I definitely “geek out” when I get to see really old books, maps, pictures, pamphlets etc… In undergrad, I studied Comparative Humanities. I thoroughly enjoyed comparing various cultures, religions, lands and seeing how they’re different and similar. Although I may not know a lot about the details of this project, I’m excited to learn about it. I believe all history has some sort of significance, we may not have to say why, but we should respect it all and know that it can help someone. Knowing that I may be able to do something to help someone in their research is a truly amazing feeling.

As Brigette was giving me a tour of the library, she mentioned how the building isn’t ideal for the projects but they are making it work. I think they’re doing a great job with the space and limitations that they’ve been given. When we got to the room full of archives, it was amazing to be in a room where the manuscripts were studied, or even created, and now we are here today to try to get them back in order so they can be used again. The fact that these manuscripts are being used actively is fascinating to me. Often times you hear of libraries that have all these amazing material, but sometimes no one knows about them or they’re not very willing to share the wealth of knowledge. I was a bit overwhelmed when I saw all the boxes. But Brigette showed how much progress has been done in just a year and a half and to me that’s reassuring that I can do something to help. It’s inspiring to see that Brigette is helping this project move along so well. With this new fascination with archives, I feel that many places start an archiving project and dive in without a proper action plan. My classmate Bree Midavaine told me about her Internship at the Burke. She told me how her supervisor gives her readings, support and a clear idea of what to do and teaches her. This really intrigued me so I decided to try my best to try to get an internship here at the Burke to learn more about archiving and lucky for me, I got it!

The main part of my internship here is to be able to learn how to work in an archive. How to get through all those boxes, organize them, and safely store them for researchers to be able to use. Learn about the little details like how to watch after them, what steps to take to try to prevent future problems, how to protect the archive after you just spent all this time restoring and organizing them all. I’m hoping I’ll be able to complete at least one project from start to finish. As I sit here trying to collect all my thoughts and expectations for the semester, I’m actually just thinking about the room full of all the manuscripts and thinking, "hm how does it all get done?" It’s time now to dive into the readings and to learn as much as I can about archiving! I’m looking forward to working with the staff here and to learn as much as I can with Brigette.

The John Dunbar Papers: Writings from the Western Frontier (1834-1836)

On May 5, 1834, Rev. John Dunbar set out with two other men for a missionary exploration of the unknown region beyond the Rocky Mountains, on behalf of the First Presbyterian Church of Ithaca, NY.  The mission was to be called "The Oregon Mission."  Eighteen days later, however, when the men arrived in St. Louis, they discovered that the party of traders with whom they had planned to travel had already left six weeks prior.  Without the traders, Dunbar and his party had no way of proceeding, since they did not know how to travel the terrain or how to sustain themselves on the way.  They were forced to abandon the undertaking. Dunbar traveled to Liberty, Missouri and then on to Bellevue, Nebraska, where he tried to connect with the natives, learn their language, and find passage to the far regions of the west. 

At various points in his journal, Dunbar writes rather contemptuously about the traders, not only for their unwillingness to aid the missionaries or share the information they have about the territories, but for their overall lack of propriety and for selling whiskey to the natives.  He writes,

At this time no missionaries…had penetrated the Indian country farther than [Bellevue, Nebraska].  The traders and others who have heretofore traversed this immense region have almost without an exception kept the knowledge they have acquired of the country and its inhabitants to themselves, or communicated it only to their fellow traders…Those engaged in trade in this country may deem it to be for their interest to keep the world in ignorance of the geography and inhabitants of this extensive portion of our continent.  Certainly the conduct of many white men who live in, and of others who occasionally visit this county needs only to be known to be condemned in any decent society.  Their deeds are deeds of darkness, and cannot bear the light of civilization. 

Once during the time of our delay I made arrangements to accompany a wretched half-starved party of Otoes, who had come down to the Cantonment to beg provisions…when I went to their camp in the early part of the day on which they had assured me they would set out on their return, they informed me they had determined to pay their friends the Konzas a visit and it would be several weeks before they would reach their place of residence on the Platte.  The true reason however of their not wishing my company was that they were desirous to take home with them a quantity of whiskey, and they were fearful they might get into trouble about it should I be in the company.  The next day I saw some of them coming up from the settlements in the border of the state having with them 6 or 8 horses laden with the water of death to the Indian.  Some white man with a devil’s heart had for a little paltry gain furnished these creatures, already sufficiently wretched, with that which is speedily working their destruction.

In spite of Dunbar’s concern for the well-being of the natives, he uses the word “wretched” six times to describe them within the nine handwritten pages of his journal.  Later that year in October of 1834, Rev. Dunbar eventually finds a way to travel beyond Bellevue to live with the Grand Pawnee tribe, hosted by the second chief of the Pawnee nation.  After two years and four hunting tours, traveling nearly 3000 miles with the Pawnee, one can sense in his writing a deep ambivalence about them:

All of us who have lived with them are constrained to say they are a kindhearted, liberal people. But they are heathen, dark-minded heathen.

Describing the scene during one of his hunting tours, he writes:

When they have traveled all day, and just at night come to the camping ground a scene usually ensues that beggars description.  The horses are fretful and uneasy, the children, cold and hungry, the women, vexed and weary, the men ill-natured and impervious.  The dogs yelp and howl, the horses whinny, the mules and asses bray, the children cry, the boys halloo, the women scold, the men chide and threaten, no one hears and everything goes wrong.  Tongue and ears at such a time are of but little use. 

One of Dunbar’s greatest concerns is the station and treatment of women among the Pawnees, who seem to him to be like slaves, doing all of the work for little or no reward.  In the polygamous marriage traditions of the Pawnee, “the eldest sister is the principle wife, and commands the younger, who seem to be little more than domestic slaves.…How little to be desired is the condition of the youngest sisters in a Pawnee family and particularly of the youngest.”  Dunbar cannot seem to reconcile this state of affairs with his own conception of women as members of a delicate and inferior class.

In the afternoon of the third day, we rode into the village and came to the old chiefs lodge.  He dismounted and walked directly into his dwelling.  Forthwith his daughter, a young woman of 22 made her appearance to unsaddle our horses and bring in our luggage.  The young woman unsaddled and unbridled her father’s horse, then attempted to do the same to mine.  But my horse seemed to have a more just sense of propriety in this respect than prevails among the Pawnees.  She did not succeed and I willingly removed the saddle and bridle myself.

It frequently occurs, when they are travelling, that a horse gets frightened, jumps about, breaks away from its leader, kicks till it has divested itself of everything that was put on it, and then runs off at full speed.  The unfortunate wife must now follow her horse till she can catch it, bring it back, gather up her scattered utensils, replace them on her horse, then follow the train.  All the recompense she receives for her trouble is a severe chiding from her lazy husband, who may have been a witness to the whole transaction without having offered at all to assist his inferior half. 

The men say their appropriate employments are hunting (taking the buffalo), and war.  Consequently, everything else that is to be done is the appropriate business of the women.  The women are very laborious, but most abject slaves.  One educated in our privileged land can scarcely form a conception of the ignorance, wretchedness and degraded servitude of the Pawnee females.  We cannot contemplate the condition of these wretched creatures without being led to feel deeply that for all that is better in the condition of females in Christian lands, they are indebted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The female, no matter who she is, that makes light of the Christian religion, trifles with that which makes her to differ from the most abject slave and degraded heathen.

Isabel Chapin Barrows: Love and Tragedy in the 19th Century

It was late summer.  The year was 1862.  William Wilberforce Chapin, a young seminary student at Andover, writes to Miss Katie Belle Hayes in New Hampshire:

Dear Miss Hayes.  When I bode you goodbye at Andover I was expecting to spend the first week of vacation in making a tour through Vermont and Canada.  Therefore I told you not to expect a letter from me for some time.  But Secretary Stanton’s anti-emigration order with sundry other reasons has cut me off from my anticipated flee and has given me an opportunity of writing you some days earlier than I had expected.  Well.  Secretary Stanton might have done a worse thing for me, and perhaps you will not feel like calling him hard names for what he has done…

The letter is signed "Your sincere friend, William W. Chapin."  Over the course of the next year the salutations would become increasingly more affectionate:

With growing esteem,
As ever yours,
Your more than friend,

In November he writes:

My dear Bella.  Every time I commence a letter to you I feel dissatisfied with the customary form of address.  The words do not seem strong enough.  Long use has taken away their force.  As I can think of no better form of address, the old one must still be used, but you must always think of the second word as being greatly intensified, as though it were underscored four or five times.

This real-life love story from the mid 19th-century is told through over 150 pages of letters written by William Wilberforce Chapin and Katherine Isabel Hayes, addressed to one another during the time of their courtship and engagement.  The letters are part of the WW Chapin Papers, held in the Missionary Research Library at the Burke Library.

Could you so tantalize me as to tell about that moonlight boat ride? I might be pardoned for feeling a little envious and hoping that you did not have a very pleasant time, but I will be generous, and hope you enjoyed it first rate.

Tantalize you sir? It is fortunate for you that you shared some generous emotion, for in my heart I hate selfish people.

In the fall of 1863, the year of his graduation from Andover Theological Seminary, William was ordained as a Congregationalist minister.  Two days later, he and Katie Belle were married, though the happy event of their wedding was sadly followed by the death of Belle’s mother two weeks later.

On Voyage to India
In January 1864, after four months of preparations, the couple set sail out of Boston harbor for a four-month journey to India, where they would serve as missionaries under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.  They kept a journal together of their long voyage at sea:

March 14th
Katie Belle: While William was skinning the albatrosses we caught Saturday, Farley fixed the line and told me to try my hand.  No sooner had I taken the line than one swallowed the bait, hook and all, and forthwith I drew him up all myself!  He is a splendid fellow, next to the handsomest taken.  [a side note indicates the magnificent bird had a wingspan of approximately 10 feet, nearly twice the size of Belle]
William:  After I had this specimen nicely stuffed I carried it to our room and placed it in one of the berths for safe-keeping, thinking she would be delighted to see it!  Instead of this she raised a great outcry over it, said it smelled musky, fishy, etc etc and insisted on its being put out of the room.  I reasoned the matter with her while I tried to prove to her that the odor was rather agreeable, but could not bring her to regard it in the same light.  So yielding the point I carried the bird away; then getting her cologne bottle I sprinkled myself with it freely and sat down by her side.  She was almost as much overcome in the latter as in the former.  Truly she is hard to please!

May 11th
William: A pretty little swallow came on board at noon.  We caught and looked at him a little while and let him go.  But towards night he came again, nestled down in a corner on deck, put his head under his wing and slept a long time.  He was evidently glad of a resting place after his long flight.
Katie Belle: In the morning the little swallow was dead.  Poor little thing!

This sad omen marked their arrival in Bombay, India.  Within three months, William became ill with fever, and though he recovered, he continued to have fevers off and on for almost two years while performing preaching tours across India.

Belle’s father was a physician to whom she wrote frequently for medical advice, but in November 1864 she received the sad news that her father had passed away, leaving her without both her parents.  In a letter to William she writes,

I long to see you – to hear you and to lay my aching head on that dear shoulder which has so often pillowed it.  You can’t think how I miss you, but for my sake do not hurry.  Above all do not be careless of your own health.  Oh! be careful, if not for your sake, then for mine.  What if the Lord should take you too!  I dare not think of it.  Surely he will have mercy and spare my husband.

Sadly, when William finally returned to her the following March, his health began to take a turn for the worse.  Belle's journal tells the tragic tale:

The second week of March I was very sick with diphtheria.  God spared my life.  How tenderly [William] took me in from the sun’s glare and called me ‘little Wifie’.  Hardly was he seated before I saw he was burning up with fever.  Naturally I was alarmed, but he said ‘It is nothing; I have had the like a hundred times.’  [Friday] the fever returned with sore throat.  I begged him to come into Nuggur but he thought me over-anxious.  Monday as it was only too evident that disease was making progress he consented to set out on our weary journey.

The couple had been living in a mud hut in a rural outpost called Pimplus.  The closest town with a medical doctor was Ahmednuggur, where William's sister and brother-in-law lived, but the journey was 50 miles, and the only transportation was a bullock cart.  The couple rode through the night, trying to avoid the heat.  Of that ride Belle writes,

My heart was breaking.  Each moment I knew might be his last.  Yet for his sake I tried to be cheerful.  When he was awake I sang to him and read him much from the pen of the beloved disciple.  When he dozed I wept bitterly.

By the time they finally arrived at the house of William’s sister and called for the doctor, it was clear that William had an advanced case of diphtheria and would soon die.  In her final journal entry Bella wrote,

Kneeling by his side with an arm thrown round my waist and my head on his shoulder I heard all his dying messages – I received his last words to me.  Ah, I cannot write of it.  Too sad, too sweet, too sacred.

Those heartbreaking last words exchanged between Belle and her beloved husband William were recorded by his sister in a letter to her sons in America:

Belle asked, “Aren’t you going to get well?”
He said, “How can I live?  My heart has ceased to beat.”
She asked, “Are you willing to go if God calls you?  Can you trust in Christ?”
“Yes,” William answered, “I have always trusted in him and he will not forsake me.  It is hard to leave you.  How will you live?”
“Do not feel anxious, the Lord will provide for me.”
“I want you to stay here and work for the heathen.  I want you to work with all your strength because the Messenger is taking me away.”
“What, here in India?” asked Belle.
“Yes, if you can.”
“If not, shall I go home?”
“Yes, and wherever you are, live for Christ because the Messenger calls me away.  When you go home, tell them all to be good to you.”  Then he asked, “Will you dig me a little grave?”
“Where,” Belle asked, “in Pimplus?”
“No,” he answered.  “In the graveyard by the old meeting house," meaning the one in Somers, Connecticut, where he grew up.
At one point William clasped Belle in his arms and said, “The Messenger has made a mistake in separating us.  I will take you with me!”  But Belle comforted and encouraged him, saying that she would let him go.  When she saw that he was fading she drew close to him and asked, “Who is this?”
“Wifey,” he replied.
“Are you glad to go to Christ?”
“Yes deary.”

These were his last words.  William was only 28 years old.

"I want you to work with all your strength…"
Belle was just 19 when she found herself in rural India both an orphan and a widow.  But this tragic tale of a life and a love cut short is not the end of the story.  Isabel did go on to work and live with a fervor and a strength uncommon for a woman of her station and situation living in the 19th century.  She continued her mission to teach women in rural India to read and write for ten months before traveling on a long, lonely voyage back to the United States.  Her intention was to become a physician like her father and then return to India to practice medicine there, but in 1867, two years after William's death, she was married a second time, to a man named Samuel Barrows who worked as a congressional stenographer in Washington, D. C.

When Samuel became too ill to work, Isabel took his place, and thus became the first women ever to work for the U. S. State Department.  She graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary in 1869, and then traveled to the University of Vienna Medical School to become one of the first female ophthalmologists, a vocation perhaps inspired by her late husband William, who often complained about his eyes, and affectionately expressed concern for hers in those early letters.  She also became the first woman to have her own private practice in Washington, D.C.

In 1880, Isabel gave up her medical practice to become the Associate Editor of The Christian Register.  She worked as both a journalist and editor covering controversial issues and supported international human rights as a social activist.  Isabel collaborated with Alice Stone Blackwell in editing The Little Grandmother of the Russian Revolution, and she was overseas attempting to win freedom for the Russian revolutionary Catherine Breshkovsky when her second husband died in 1909.  She subsequently took his place that year at the International Prison Congress in Paris, and continued to work for women’s prison reform and other social causes until her own death in 1913.

Post-Internship Thoughts

On the first day of my internship at Burke, Brigette, my internship supervisor, asked if I would write a blog post discussing what I expect from my internship and the overall experience. Would I want to be a processing archivist once the next few months were over? Not having had any experience processing a collection from start to finish (I always seemed to come in the middle of things) or having any experience writing a finding aid, I will admit that I was just a tad apprehensive going into it. On top of that, I was worried that not knowing any of the subject matter or terminology (I’m Jewish) would hinder my work in some way.

Side note: I now know the definition of “Ecumenism” with confidence!

Fast forward about four months later and I have four collections under my belt, with the accompanying finding aids to prove it. I thought the whole process was going to be harder than it actually was for some reason or another, but I’m glad to have been proven wrong. Granted, that is not to say that processing these collections was easy for me. It took me some time to get used to the way an archivist needs to think — how do I organize this? Should there be any series? Subseries? How do I put it all together in a way that will make it easy for the researcher to have access to these materials? There’s so much to think about and to consider, that oftentimes I found myself getting bogged down by all the details instead of doing what needed to be done.

Things got easier for me as I went through my first collection, which was around 10 boxes or so. I transitioned into a one-box collection, and made it all the way up to a 19-box collection in the end. This may not seem daunting for those archivists who have processed 100+ box collections, but for someone with little experience doing so I have to say it was a pretty good feeling. Each collection had its issues, however, and sometimes I found myself doubting all of the knowledge that I had gained thus far. Thank goodness Brigette was always there to help me snap out of my doubts, giving me the confidence to go with my instincts. After all, every archivist does things differently.

This internship provided me with the confidence to do the work of a processing archivist and (hopefully!) do it well. Yes, there will always be stumbling blocks and new things to learn along the way, but now I know that not only am I capable of processing archival collections, but I really enjoy it!

State Council of Churches and Wrap-Up

I want to put in a quick plug for the collection that I just finished…on my LAST day of my internship here at the Burke Archives.  Then I'll do a little wrap up of my time here and what I learned.

WAB: State Council of Churches Records, 1943 – 1974
Abstract
: Regional ecumenical and interfaith organizations come together under the umbrella of their respective state council of churches.  Rooted in local communities they are able to respond to needs specific to that region.  These councils are agencies of cooperation focused on service and Christian unity. Collection contains bulletins, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, correspondence, annual meeting minutes and reports.

Collection Scope and Content Note: The majority of the collection is comprised of state council bulletins or newsletters and annual state council meetings.  New York, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Jersey form the bulk of the collection.  Of note within the New York collection is a smaller collection pertaining to the New York City Protestant council, which was a large regional council serving the local needs of the city.  The Ohio collection is a large run of the Ohio Christian News dating from 1946 to 1971.  The Massachusetts collection also contains a large run of the state council’s newsletter Christian Outlook and copies of annual reports.  The New Jersey collection contains reports of its annual meetings from 1958 to 1974.  Michigan is contained in block parenthesis because the state was inferred from locale information contained in the annual meeting report. The collection is arranged alphabetically according to state.  Within the state divisions, state councils are organized first with county, regional and city councils following.  Each folder is arranged alphabetically and the materials within those folders are arranged chronologically.  Other state councils in the collection include Alabama, California – Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Wrap Up!

My final day at the Burke has arrived.  My time here has gone by amazingly fast and I am surprised with the fact that I was able to complete the processing  and DAM on four collections.  Granted one collection contained a single book, but it still feels good to have some experience under my belt.  So did I accomplish what I hoped to accomplish, was the experience all that I had hoped it would be?  Absolutely! This was definitely the place where I could test my theoretical knowledge of archival processing by putting it into practice.  The mundane tasks of sorting, discarding, re-housing and labeling are no longer intimidating mysteries.  Not surprisingly, considering my love of organization, those mundane tasks were some of my favorite activities.  Thankfully, I encountered no bugs and only a little bit of dirt and dust. I was able to shift my focus from item level description to box and folder description and adhere to the “More Product Less Process” standard.  I gradually figured out how to limit my tendency to be verbose in regards to my historical notes and scope and contents notes.  While I’m not perfect and still  have a difficult time using sentence fragments in the abstract, I am much better at it than when I started.  It’s nice to see less and less corrective red from Brigette on them.  I even enjoyed being able to put my long dormant historian training to use while I was researching historical and biographical information regarding the collections. 

Learning how to do archival processing, while important, was not my only goal.  I wanted to learn and experience a way to make internships not only benefit the institutions, but teach students life-long lessons.  My final paper for my Practicum focuses on the need for constructionist and constructivist based learning as a way to engage students more actively in the learning process.  Both methods encourage students to actively interact and create within and with the physical world rather than passively receiving knowledge; however constructionism additionally requires the production of a tangible object in the final outcome.  Learning becomes more than knowledge acquisition and becomes a process of identity formation and empowerment.   Mentors, supervisors, and teachers who use these approaches make it easier for students to see their work not only as personally enriching but also of value to the community they are serving.  As such, new knowledge is not only more effectively embedded in the students mind, but the students become embedded in the community they serve.

I’m only using this high flung academic-speak to illustrate that Brigette uses these approaches to teaching archival practice and processing.  I did not just create finding aids, but I made them available online increasing access, spoke about their relevance in various blog entries, posted information regarding the new collections on Twitter and Facebook, I was even informed one of the collections was given to me because a user had requested the material and the library wanted to accommodate the request in a timely manner.  I did not just learn archival theory or just the do’s and don’ts of archival processing, but I created a tangible object that tied me to a community of archivists and archives users.  Eventually I began to describe myself as an archivist when asked what I do.  I am no longer just a library graduate student, but because of what I was able to accomplish I now identify with being an archivist.  I no longer limit my job searches to special collections or museum libraries. It was great to see this teaching method in action and see the personal affect it had on me.  

If you are still on the fence regarding archives, if you don’t have a clue what to do in an archive, even if you love them I would recommend coming here for an internship and becoming part of the archivist community.  It was a great experience!

Interns Wanted!

Are you currently enrolled in a library science/archives degree or in a related field, such as history, anthropology or theology, and are you looking to earn credit and increase your skills on a practical level?

We are looking for interns to help with the processing of these collections, specifically for the Spring 2013 semester. However, interns are wanted and needed throughout the duration of the project.

Please see the internship advertisement HERE for more information.

Qualifications and Skills:

  • Must be currently enrolled in a master’s program.
  • Excellent oral and written skills.
  • No prior specialist archival knowledge needed. Support and training available.
  • Ability to lift heavy boxes (40lb) safely and handle weights of 15 pounds regularly.
  • Organizational/office skills and experience. Familiarity with Word and Excel.
  • Capacity to manage spiral staircase and work with dusty materials.
  • Knowledge of other languages including German, French, Chinese and Japanese appreciated but not required.

How to Apply:

Please submit the following:

  • Cover letter explaining your career objectives and what you hope to gain from the internship.
  • Résumé detailing your education and work experiences.

Send these materials and/or other questions to the project archivist, Brigette Kamsler, at bck2115@columbia.edu. You can also leave a comment here and we will get in touch.

Hope to hear from you!