The Life of a Digital Collections Intern

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The Life of a Digital Collections Intern

2011-04-18 11:50

Posted on behalf of Stephanie Sendaula

Before I even applied for my current internship, which is in digital collections, I debated whether or not I should apply for a traditional archive internship ... processing, describing, ladder-climbing, etc... To be honest I do a little bit of those now. Actually, I do a lot of ladder climbing (it's a good thing I got over my fear of heights during a rappelling excursion in college), but I do a lot more than that as well. One of the best things about my internship, besides the people, is that no day is the same. This is perfect for me since I like variety, especially when it comes to work. Here are some of my favorite aspects of my internship so far:

  • Researching. This includes using a card catalog — yes those still exist! — to find materials that need to be digitized. This may not seem like a lot of fun, but I liken it to a treasure hunt. Sometimes Melissa, the Rights and Reproductions Coordinator, and I spend a long time tracking down a specific document, letter, map, or photograph. We're both fairly short and we often have to ask for help reaching an item because even a ladder isn't tall enough to help us. However, the feeling of satisfaction you get when you find an item after a long hunt? Yeah, it's good.



Folders of digitization requests from authors, professors, journalists, etc...

  • Digitizing. My friends often ask me if I get to read historic documents while I'm digitizing. I try to, but I often get in zone of scanning and it doesn't always happen. Instead, I read snippets of someone's life, which I liken to watching a reality show on an inconsistent basis. The most interesting document that I have digitized so far is a diary of a soldier in the 29th Infantry during the Civil War. His diary was equal parts History Channel and Oregon Trail, complete with every type of illness you can imagine. One of the more exciting aspects of digitizing is that I get to use Photoshop, which I love playing around with because it has so many unique features.


The scanner — where I spend a lot of quality time


  • Metadata-ing. Can I make that a verb? I have a love/hate relationship with metadata. Fun? Yes. Tedious? Yes. Of course, I know it needs to get done because it helps you find what you are looking for in the Digital Library. If you haven't visited the Digital Library yet, there is no better time to start. Launched earlier this month, it contains thousands of images from our collections that focus on Philadelphia and Pennsylvania history. For the past four months, I have been going through our digital access management system, affectionately called the DAMS, to fix typos and other stay marks that would prevent you from finding what you are looking for.

If you are interesting in gaining first-hand experience in digital collection in an archival environment, read more about about the various types of internships on this page. I love my internship so far and plan to stay along the digital collections path once I graduate from Drexel. - Stephanie

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