Looking Back, Fondly: My Summer Internship at HSP
When deciding what to do for coursework this summer at Drexel University (I am a library and information science graduate student), I decided that I wanted to complete a practicum in an archival setting. It seemed like few places were hiring, and I was worried that I would not find a practicum site before classes began. However, I found the Summer Archives Intern posting on HSP’s website, right before the application due date. Just days later, Cary Majewicz and Matthew Lyons were interviewing me, and a few days after that, I was offered the position.
I began the internship with rehousing collections, such as the Leon Gardiner collection of American Negro Historical Society records, which was full of portraits and rich African-American materials from the 19th-century. Next was rehousing and labeling the Academy of Music collection, full of programs from the various opera companies in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Ballet Company. This collection was where I had my chance to hone my research skills, and write a biographical note regarding the history of The Academy of Music. I found many interesting tidbits of information that entangled me in the rich history of the organization. Did you know that there was actually a University of Pennsylvania football game held *inside* the Academy? It really did happen.
The next tasks put my archival theory and processing coursework into practice--I worked on the Robert Proud collection and the William H. L. Smith collection. As I wrote about in my post on Proud, I searched for information to give the collection some context, and I ended up learning about an individual whose path I crossed academically hundreds of years later. With Smith, I learned that collections aren’t as always as exhilarating as one might hope, but it can be fun searching for material to give a better image of who a person was, and why a collection may have importance to someone else in the future.
I completed so many projects that I had to be reminded of all of them, as I had forgotten. I’ve labeled, rehoused, tabbed, tied, cleaned, processed, and researched on so many organizations and individuals that I’ve gone home after every day after my internship with something exciting to talk about (at least to me). I was given the leeway to strike out on my own as an archivist, and simply learn by doing. However, having Cary sitting behind me made it easy for me to ask questions when I felt I wasn’t sure on how to do something, or what task to complete next. The working environment treated me like an equal, and every single person I’ve met here has been passionate about what they do, and know more than I may ever know. Just shadowing with Dr. Dan [Rolph] at the reference desk reminded me that I do like helping people find information, and everyone here at HSP does that – from processing to public services to outreach, HSP wants you to come in and look at what they have to offer. I admit it; I’ve walked by this building dozens of times and have not realized what’s inside. Now I do know what’s inside, and I want to stay. I may be leaving for another internship now, but I’ll find my way back.
Looking back, I’ve completed this internship in ten weeks, and it feels like ten days. Time flew by, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I feel that I know how to process archival materials, how to conduct more thorough research, and how to work on a team. For all you library and archival science students who are reading this: you want to work here. You will learn from each individual that you interact with, and you will have the opportunity to work with collections that will challenge and intrigue you.