Reflections from Our Interns: William Keeler

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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