This post was written by William (Bill) Keeler, history undergrad and SCRC research services intern since May 2017.
I am a history undergrad here at Mason with a focus in American History. I worked for many years in customer service before going to college and hope to be able to obtain my degree and work with the public in an instructional capacity. I reached out to Special Collections after my second visit here inquiring as to whether or not they had any internship opportunities. After meeting with Rebecca Bramlett, the Research Services Coordinator and Liz Beckman, the Manuscripts and Archives Librarian, and learning what SCRC had to offer, I was excited at the prospect of interning this summer semester after hearing the vast scope of projects that would be available to me.
Interning at Special Collections Research Center has been incredibly rewarding. My projects ranged from surveying parts of the collections for an upcoming exhibit to identifying compelling source materials for workshops that will be held this fall semester, calling it work is difficult. I was approached by Dr. George Oberle about working with him on the primary workshop aspect of his Hist-300 course and learned more about emerging pedagogical methods in the realm of teaching with primary sources. Being able to collaborate from an undergraduate point-of-view was definitely helpful in adding to his coursework. Understanding the work that goes into designing and conducting a workshop geared towards helping undergraduates not only think about primary sources from a multitude of angles but also effectively incorporating said sources into their projects and essays was definitely an eye-opening experience.
A class instruction using Artists’ Books.
One surprising facet that I was not privy to beforehand was the sheer amount of work one has to put into designing workshops and whether or not said work will come to fruition. From surveying holdings in SCRC to studying exactly what instructors want their students to take away from their time here, proved to be difficult but extremely enjoyable. Constantly working with Rebecca on how best to organize the information we would be presenting, helped me gain a better understanding of the instructional aspect of primary source workshops. While at first I assumed that it would be possible to make one outline for all topics, I quickly learned that each topic and source required a specific approach in order to properly understand each source in the period in which they were published. Furthermore, being able to switch gears between the mindset of educator and student proved difficult at times throughout the process, but being able to peer through both lenses when looking at workshop outlines proved invaluable as well as thoroughly enjoyable.
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This post was written by Zachary Greenfield, undergrad in history at George Mason University. He has been a summer processing intern at our Special Collections Research Center since May 2017.
My internship with Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) has been incredibly enjoyable! I have gotten to handle a broad range of materials and collections. I mostly worked on processing various collections. While I only finished three complete collections, I was able to see the various states that they arrive in (for better or worse) and see just how much work goes into each collection. Everything from sorting to labelling and creating inventories as well as creating the finding aid I handled. Of course not every part of processing is enjoyable, newspaper clippings are not fun to work with as I learned and everyone agreed. The first collection I worked on was the Vincent F. Callahan collection, who I learned was a local politician. This was a collection of newspaper clippings about Callahan and his work that came to SCRC mostly unsorted. I spent much of my time organizing the collection into groups based on the publications before foldering them by date and newspaper. This took a surprising amount of time given the apparent size of the collection. After I finished the Callahan collection I also worked on the Hugh Sockett Institution for Educational Transformation (IET) Records. This was primarily composed of the papers and records for IET during Sockett’s tenure at the Institution. This was considerably better organized than the Callahan collection and was able to be completed much faster. My final collection during my internship was the Paul Ceruzzi Papers, which was primarily research for his book, “Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005” and is full of interesting research into the history of the local Fairfax area and the development of technology and the Internet in the Cold War period and beyond. Previously, I did not distinguish much between archives and museums, but after doing this internship I can better appreciate both the similarities and the differences between the two institutions. In addition to my processing duties I also helped with rewriting the finding aids for previously processed collections. Overall I enjoyed my time at the George Mason University SCRC, and if given the opportunity I would continue working here more regularly.
Documents arranged into acid-free folders.
This internship complements my academic interests because I have always been interested in the writings and documents of people in our past. Both the everyday commoners and the people who are talked about in major history books. Seeing these collections is both like getting to see the creation of history and getting to see the process behind how history is researched and talked about. My academic interests are mostly historical but also range into the sciences, particularly space, biology, and early technology. As a side effect of my internship, particularly when working with the collection donated by Ceruzzi, I have been able to learn more about the Space Race and the feats associated with that. My historical interests are centered around the Viking Age and pre-Columbian Native Americans and Mesoamericans, but I am interested in all things history related. I have always loved visiting museums and recently become interested in working in either a museum or an archive. While I do not yet have a solid goal in mind, my next step after George Mason will be a Master’s degree and a journey into either the world of archives or the world of museums. Prior to doing this internship, I had some exposure to the SCRC from some of my classes that have held workshops there and through my own visits as a researcher. Of course, the convenient location at my university made SCRC seem like an excellent place to intern and I was interested in pursuing the internship because of the experience and guidance it could provide for my future.
The Special Collections Research Center has had many student wage employees over the years. Undergraduate and graduate student assistants are invaluable to our archival processing and digitization projects, research services, and oral history program. Students have also been part of our records management team. It is safe to say that SCRC wouldn’t function the same way without them!
However, as critical as student workers are for SCRC, it’s not all about what our students can do for us. As a special collections unit at an educational institution, a major part of our mission is to train and teach the students who work here. Generally, SCRC has employed paid student workers, but internships for academic credit are even more focused on education than student wage jobs. As Lisa M. Sjoberg from Concordia College notes, “the goal of internships is to create a learning-centered experience for students to engage in an authentic environment that couples theory and practice.”1 In support of this goal, SCRC is thrilled to announce a new internship program that will provide undergraduate students with course credit and with targeted education in specific areas of special collections work.
SCRC Processing Intern Zac Greenfield at work on the Vincent Callahan Collection.
To kick off our new internship initiative, two history undergraduate interns are working in SCRC for the Summer 2017 semester. Zac Greenfield and Bill Keeler began their special collections journeys with a scavenger hunt in our closed stacks on their first day, and they have each taken to their respective projects with great enthusiasm. Zac’s primary focus is on archival processing, and he is currently arranging and describing material collected by Vincent Callahan, a Northern Virginia politician. Bill, meanwhile, is working in research services and is helping Research Services Coordinator Rebecca Bramlett develop primary source literacy curriculum. Stay tuned throughout the summer, as we’ll be posting updates on Zac and Bill’s work, as well as information about future internships in SCRC for credit during the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 semesters.
1. Lisa M. Sjoberg, “Internships and High-Impact Learning in Archives,” in Management: Innovative Practices for Archives and Special Collections, ed. Kate Theimer (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2014), 29-30.