Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reflections on an Archival Internship

This summer I spent ten weeks processing papers as an intern at the Russell Library. I am a graduate student from Auburn University (War Eagle!) but live in Athens and was selected for the internship. I was hired to process a collection donated by former Athens Mayor, Heidi Davison, from start-to-finish. With Mayor Davison’s papers I learned how to inventory a collection, work with accession records, appraise materials, process papers, create a finding aid and upload it to the library’s system. Heidi Davison’s papers were well-organized and with the help of electronic records guru and archivist Adriane Hanson, I finished the collection quickly. The lessons I learned from processing Mayor Davison’s papers allowed me to have the confidence in my own ability to work as an archivist in training.

I gained even more experience by processing three more collections over the course of the internship. Each collection was different and offered its own unique learning opportunities. The Phillip T. and Maria Alicia Crespo Parkerson Collection  required less processing than Mayor Davison’s records but a more personal biographical approach. The Parkerson papers documented the family’s travels in official and unofficial capacities and unlike the Mayor’s records these papers offered personal insight into the family and how they lived in Latin America. The John C. Foster, Sr. Papers documented the work of former Georgia State Senator. These papers required more physical processing than any of the other collections; some folders had to be removed due to mold, rusted paper clips had to be removed, and two boxes of loose speeches needed to be corralled into order.

The last collection I processed was the smallest and left me most perplexed about its organization. The Melvin Hill Files on the Select Committee to Revise State Constitution  papers were originally housed in large binders in five boxes. When the materials were removed from the binders the collection measured 2.5 linear feet. This collection was definitely a learning experience as I had never processed any collection of this size. It was new to have to give up some of the archival training of creating description and content notes and let the collection stand on its own. Some of the most helpful and meaningful experiences this summer have come from actually applying “more product less process” standards (meaning that we use flexible, efficient processing techniques).

I think the most important knowledge imparted to me through my time at the Russell Library this summer was what you can actually achieve when you process minimally. Four new collections are now available and open to researchers thanks to my work over three months time. These collections are now ready for students, researchers, historians, and others interested in Georgia’s history. I think one of the most important and satisfying aspects of being a processing archivist is the knowledge that you have created access to materials that were previously closed to the public. I could not have chosen a better environment to work and learn than the Russell Library. These past ten weeks have afforded me an immeasurable amount of professional and practical experience as well as personal enjoyment. All of the staff of the Russell Library were friendly, helpful, and made my internship a very memorable ten weeks.

Post by Angelica Marini, Processing Intern, Russell Library

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