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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Digging those girl diggers: Dispatch from a former intern

Nicole Baynard is an undergraduate at American University studying anthropology. Nicole recently completed a Reference Services internship with the National Anthropological Archives. During the course of her internship, Nicole assisted researchers in the Reading Room, answered reference questions, and worked on collection assessment projects. Nicole shares a story about the intersection of her internship and academic career.

I was eager to take a hands-on approach to my education and get involved during my sophomore year. My peers were finding their places in various government agencies and I decided that I would pursue an internship that offered more than scanning documents and running errands. After a long and trying search, I finally found my place at the National Anthropological Archives. Each week proved more interesting than the last. I was learning about different organizations that contribute to the collections at the National Anthropological Archives, notable researchers and professors, and the progression of anthropological research.

In my first few weeks of interning at the NAA, I reviewed the newspaper clippings in the River Basin Survey papers for interesting material to contribute to a future online project. I was particularly fascinated with tracing specific incidents as they played out in the most popular newspapers of the time. After sifting through several articles detailing the complications with the return of a Confederate gunboat as it moved down the Chattahoochee River, I stumbled upon an article titled “Dig these girl diggers at Old Spanish Fort.” I was instantly attracted to the article because of the intriguing Introduction to Archaeology course I had taken the previous spring. The author of the article, Tom Sellers, seemed quite astounded to discover college women participating hands-on in an archeological field school during their summer break. He claimed that the female students were “holding up as well or better than their male colleagues” as if it was unheard of to see women in the muddy ditches. As I read the article describing the excavations the students were doing under the advisement of Florida State University Professor Lewis Lawson Jr., I started contemplating what it would be like to be engaged in an archeological dig as an alternative break for school.

A few days after reading the newspaper article, I received an e-mail from my university about the opportunity to apply for an archeological dig. With the same enthusiasm I had when applying for internships, I immediately researched the program and began my application. Five days later, I received word that I was accepted to travel to Varna, Bulgaria with the Balkan Heritage Field School to spend a few weeks digging and learning at a Byzantine monastery. I was overjoyed at the prospect of yet another hands-on opening in the field of anthropology and archeology. Much like the college students from the article, Janet Turner and Mabel Shaw, I will be digging alongside of my male colleagues and attending lectures and seminars regarding the processing of archaeological finds. Although it is common to find women in the field today, I look back on Sellers’ article and imagine what it must have been like for the young women from FSU to have the opportunity to recover artifacts and break the masculine norm asserting that working in the field was a man’s job. Even though they are not the only women who dug in the 1960s, Janet and Mabel helped break the stereotype of the woman as a fragile and delicate being. They paved the way for young college students, like me, to have the opportunity to prove themselves on “tough archaeological expeditions.” I hope to embark on my journey with the same gusto and drive as the students in the 1960s.

Much like Janet and Mabel, I do not plan on becoming an archaeologist, however; taking part in an archaeological expedition for college credit is exciting. As my internship at the NAA is coming to a close, I leave with the strong belief that their unique collections and willingness to allow interns explore the many facets the Archives have to offer are beneficial to both the NAA and all who have the privilege of working for them. Because of my explorations at the Archives, I leave with a renewed passion for advancing in the field of anthropology and hope to return one day to conduct research of my own.
-Nicole Baynard

Posted by: Leanda Gahegan, Reference Archivist
National Anthropological Archives

1 comment:

  1. Those are the kind of inspiring intern experiences I love to hear about! Thanks for sharing!