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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Summer Vacation is Over When the Interns Leave

The summer is almost over. I know that because I am completely alone in the Archives and after the exodus of 3 interns my productivity rate has dramatically decreased. There are some who refuse to take on interns because the time and effort required to set up projects and supervise them can be significant. Especially in a large federal institution where massive quantities of paperwork are required before access can be granted. And it's true. It probably takes me several weeks get an intern badged, introduced to the Archives, and started on their project. It then takes a further periodic investment of time to supervise the work they are producing and to mentor them. But, I feel the initial cost of set up is greatly off-set when projects have been completed and products created that otherwise would have taken me years to get to.

This summer I somewhat unexpectedly, (and in retrospect, ambitiously) took on 3 interns. It took about a month to get their various schedules down and the kinks in their projects worked out, but in the end what they accomplished is truly impressive.

Megan Quint came to us from the Pacific NW, where she attends Lewis and Clark.  Megan is interested in pursuing archives or libraries and did a split summer internship between the Freer|Sackler Archives and the Library.  For the Archives she spent the majority of her time researching the Archives' smaller collections and wrote reflective pieces highlighting them on the blog.  To see the first sample of her work, check out "Russell Hamilton's Postcard Collection: Pragmatic or Romantic?"

Kelsey Jansen van Galen just finished her MLIS at Wayne State University and applied for an internship at the Walters Art Museum of Baltimore.  As the F|S Archives and the emerging Walters' Archives have a friendly relationship, Kelsey was able to do a two week intensive internship here where she used her EAD skills to encode two massive finding aids with box and folder lists that totaled over 300.  You can read more details of her work here: "Two Weeks in the Freer|Sackler Archives: an EAD Adventure."

Lastly, Beatrice Kelly is a return intern who has just graduated High School and is on her way to an art history program through the University College, London.  Beatrice spent seven weeks researching thousands of items in the Ernst Herzfeld papers to determine and catalog geographical plot-points for each item so that they can show up in our map interface.  By using original maps in the collection, articles and books written on the region, and working with Archives and Curatorial staff she established the most accurate site and buildings possible for each item.  She then worked with the Google Maps application to determine the exact latitude and longitude for each ancient building at each archaeological site.  In the end, Beatrice researched and entered plot-points for 85 different ancient cities into over 2500 records.  You can read more about this project here: "New Freer|Sackler Archives Image Galleries."

As you can see, even though having multiple interns took a large investment of my time, as a result I have several blog posts highlighting our collections, two finding aids to major collections, and several ancient cities cataloged down to a building level for 2500 items.  There is no way I would have been able to get to all of these projects, let alone focus on them long enough to complete them in three months.  What's more is that I was able to mentor them, share my knowledge and experience, help them make connections, and share in their joy and sense of accomplishment.  That alone, I find, is worth the investment.

To read more on my thoughts on how to utilize interns, see this post: The Thing About Interns Is...

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer|Sackler Archives

"School Children in Front of NMNH," Negative Number: SIA2009-2125 and SIA-1269
Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,

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