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Website Launch and Other Odds and Ends

 Last week at my cataloging internship at the American Archive for Public Broadcasting (AAPB) at WGBH Boston, our website launched and went live. This has been a long time coming and many, many people worked very hard to make this happen, so I wanted to take a minute and share it with you. Understandably, we had a party at lunch. I basically only ate cake and powered through the afternoon on a sugar high from the excellent buttercream frosting. Here's a link to the AAPB, so you can see the results and learn more about the project I'm working on:

This week was busy, but I managed to break my routine a few times. First on Tuesday, I went to happy hour at a near by bar called the Squealing Pig. The event was sponsored by the SLIS Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SCoSSA), and there was all sorts of good food and good company. It was a nice mid-week break. Later in the week, I had an interview for an audiovisual digitization internship at a local cultural heritage institution. It's two days a week over the summer, and I hope I get it, but I won't know for a little while. Fingers crossed! The other three days of the week, I would continue to work at Snell Library at Northeastern University. Plus, I'm taking a full course load, so I'm definitely not worried about being bored. Actually, I'm really excited and grateful that I'm finally at a point where I could potentially have full-time LIS employment (even if it is two part-time jobs).

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Love in (or Lovin') the Archives

I've been thinking about the phrase "I have a lot on my plate" lately.  It seems like if my schedule were this figurative plate, it would look like I just left an all-you-can-eat buffet.  In the last week I have ended a job, started a new job, worked a shift of my internship, and set up an interview for a possible second part-time job at an academic library... All while trying to keep up with my school work. In addition to all of this, I'm trying to make time for my friends, family, and (lastly) sleep.  Sometimes when one's schedule is so packed, it's hard to remember what exactly one is working toward.

But thankfully I've been utterly caught up in the romance that can happen with archival work. Previously, I mentioned the series of love letters between a young couple in the 1940s that is a large part of the collection in which I'm working, but recently I found several other letters written to the young woman of the aforementioned couple from a completely different man, a young soldier, during the same time. There were so many letters between the original young couple that I've been skimming them for notable places, peoples, or dates, but I can't help but read each of the young soldier's letters word for word. He's an amazing writer, definitely someone who believed in the lost art of letter-writing. He writes about the unnamed places he's been, the horror of war. In one letter, he poignantly makes the observation that he often hears the sound of faraway planes and bombs and thinks that he is dreaming of an imaginary place, only to realize that home is the imaginary place, and these war sounds are his frightening reality. From what I gather, it seems that the young woman wrote to him out of the blue and they had been paramours before college. He knows she's dating someone else, and yet he asks her several times, "Why did you write me? Why won't you tell me?"

The story for me is irresistible. I know I'm incredibly lucky to find such a plot jumbled with 19th century stock shares and probate documents (which are interesting but in a completely different way). I hope I have some time while creating this finding aid to research this young soldier and see if he survived the war. Perhaps he and the young woman met again, later in life, after she had married her college sweetheart. Perhaps he died, and that's why she married in the middle of the war so suddenly. It's quite a mystery to me how archivists can resist being great novelists!

This was just a little note, in the whirlwind of school and work and life, to appreciate the little romantic moments in your studies. It can be romantic in the literal sense like mine or Romantic in the literary sense, but I hope that you find and love what it is you are pursuing here at Simmons.  Until next time, enjoy Spring Break!

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Thoughts of Summer

This week I registered for summer classes and applied for a summer internship. I could hardly believe it. Summer seems so far off, especially given the amount of snow on the ground now, but it's better to plan for it now than to be caught unprepared later.

As for classes, after much vacillation, I decided to take courses in XML, digital stewardship, and digital humanities. It is all very technology oriented. A year ago if you had told me I would focus on something like this for a career, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. It is really challenging, but I'm passionate about making information available and discoverable for everyone. That's why concentrating on digital repositories seems like a good choice for me. The choice also fits very well the professional and internship experience I have. It's tough, because I feel like my level of skill with technology isn't as advanced as a lot of other students', but I think I can overcome my deficiencies and learn more given how much I care about what I'm doing.

Fortunately, the summer internship I got fits really well with my goals. It's at the State Library of Massachusetts doing cataloging. So far, most of my cataloging experience has been in archives, so this is a good opportunity to round out my skills. The library is in the State House, which is gorgeous, so that doesn't hurt either. It also doesn't hurt that my boss, the cataloging librarian, is a Simmons alumna.

statehouse.jpegPhoto courtesy of Wikipedia

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Ancestors & Acquisitions - My Genealogical Internship

There is such a difference between learning the theory behind everything we study here and actually putting those theories to good use.  As I am currently enrolled in LIS438 (Introduction to Archives), I have the fortune of spending a few hours each week at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, Massachusetts.

Before I go into my work there, I want to encourage all of you to visit the NEHGS.  While my work there will definitely keep me busy, I plan on returning to this organization and looking into my own family tree.  While parts of my family are very new to the United States, there is so much to discover and explore.  The librarians, genealogists, and researchers that work at the institution from Tuesday to Saturday each week are incredibly kind, knowledgeable, and helpful.  The society's collections include published genealogies, manuscripts, maps, art... and not just from New England.  One floor is dedicated to European materials, while their general reference and microfilm collections include materials from New York, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest.  If you aren't located in the New England area, I hope that you look into your own local historical society or genealogical society.  Knowing where we came from can only assist us in where we are going.


Though I've only spent one day at my new internship, my time at the NEHGS promises to be anything but a copies-and-coffee type of position.  I have a relatively recent acquisition all to myself, and it is my job to process and describe the collection in full.  I haven't been able to go through the entire collection just yet, but the half that I was able to go over left me hungry for more.  The items range from a 1700s account book which once belonged to Nathan Dickinson (a possible relation to Emily) to extravagantly decorated bonds and shares owned by a 19th century American businessman to a few Valentines from the 1800s.  What excites me the most, however, were a few different series of personal correspondence.  The first is unfortunately all in French (unfortunate solely because I do not speak it) but appears to be written to the donor's great-grandmother from a Belgian soldier during World War I.  How curious and almost sad these letters seemed to me.  Perhaps I'm a Romantic, but I couldn't help but get carried away in their potential story... how does a young American woman find herself writing in French to a young Belgian soldier at the turn of the century?  It's clear from the rest of the collection that they did not get married - was this soldier her first love?  Or maybe their letters were simply a chance correspondence, a product of some sort of pen pal program?  I wish I could read these letters, but at the same time, I love the sense of mystery that these letters contain.

The second set of correspondence is much more accessible, both because the writers are English-speakers from 1940s Massachusetts and because both sides of the correspondence are present.  The eventual husband and wife, college students at MIT and U Mass Amherst respectively, wrote to each other from the very start of their relationship, recording their first declaration of love to their first fights and eventually to the man's enlistment in the U.S. Army during World War II.  I can't help but feel affectionate for this young couple, especially when the man writes "Don't ever forget how much I love you" at the end of all of his letters.


It's these letters, the signatures, the to-do lists and other everyday items from ordinary people that initially interested me about archives.  These are new stories, not about great men or other famous people.  These are the stories that the rest of us ordinary people live, and they also deserve to be told.  So beware: you might be reading a whole lot about this young couple in the future... and perhaps a certain Belgian soldier, if I can find someone who reads French!

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