Hidden History: A Library of Congress Virtual Internship

Adrianna Dunn

I started this year with a complete plan leading to my graduation. My practicum requirements were going to be fulfilled this Summer 2020.  I was accepted to be a Research Assistant for Dr. Smith’s Greek Osteology Research Project. But four weeks in Greece turned to eight weeks at home in Connecticut with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the research trip was cancelled and more internships became unavailable, I was unsure as to if I would be able to meet my graduation goal. Luckily, I received an email from Dr. Gooding that contained a virtual internship opportunity that I could complete from home. The internship would be volunteering to transcribe online materials for the institution of my choice. I chose to be a Library of Congress volunteer. Virtually transcribing materials was not how I had expected my internship to be. I had expected my internship to be more hands-on and interacting with multiple people. Though it was not what I had expected, I was glad that I would still be able to graduate when I planned.

To volunteer for the Library of Congress, began with creating a personal account in By the People. By the People is the application by which volunteers can keep track of the materials they transcribe and review. Transcription was needed so that the materials could be preserved and available for search engines and the public. Before I could register for the internship, I had to show that I would be able to complete the work required. I transcribed one of the documents and submitted proof that it was accepted. That was the beginning of my virtual internship.

By the People transcribing portal.

The materials were in different campaigns that the Library of Congress posted. Materials included handwritten and typed papers, legal documents, letters, and even diary entries. Some documents were even from people during the Revolutionary War. Most of my work was self-guided. The Library of Congress provided a How to Transcribe guide, but other than that I was mostly on my own. It was different from other types of internships, as I mostly supervised myself.

I was able to set what times I would transcribe, and review, and I was able to fit time in with my other summer classes. The internship requirement of 150 hours was still in place, so I had to be on top of the time that I needed to work. I was able to break my time up into shifts. Though most of the material was interesting, such as, the drafts of Mary Church Terrell, an African American and Women’s rights activist, it could become tedious to be sitting and transcribing for five hours a day.

Mary Church Terrell paper circa 1897.

Breaking up the time I worked and taking breaks helped me stay focused and not feel as though it was dull. Transcribing every day for eight weeks can definitely feel tiresome. There were some days that I dreaded going back to the computer and looking at more papers. I had to be extremely dedicated and manage my time well.

Over the coming weeks I became better at transcribing and understanding different styles of writing and script. There were stories of different interactions that were enjoyable to read. Creativity was needed to complete the required internship assignments and papers. Since this was a virtual internship, I had to find ways that it could apply to anthropology and what I was learning from it.

I gained access to stories that are not often available in history books or websites. In addition, I could read individuals’ personal writings and thoughts that provided a more complete view of the culture and ideas of that time. Working as a virtual volunteer, I was able to provide completed materials for future research purposes and community access. I gained a better understanding of how historical materials are preserved. It was an interesting look into archival work and public institutions.

Boston newspaper circa 1833-1916.

By completing this virtual internship, I became better at analyzing and connecting materials to anthropology. I was able to learn methods for transcribing and I can now list transcribing as a skill on my resume. I was able to gain better time management and complete the hours at my own pace.  I gained experience with transcribing and found out that I do not want to focus on similar work in the future. I learned more about my work preferences and that I want to work in an environment with opportunities to be active and have more hands-on projects.

There are many benefits to transcribing for the Library of Congress. The ability to set a schedule is great for anyone that has other responsibilities or classes. Transcribing is also a transferable skill and is a notable contribution to a resume or CV. Access to historical materials can enhance cultural understanding and give context to past stories, as well as be more readily available for the public and community use. Though the work can be tedious at times, volunteering virtually is a great option for anyone looking for an internship that they can complete at home.

Deep Roots in Georgia: The Root House Museum

Sara Allen

I was an unpaid intern at the Root House Museum. My time there started in August, while the house was still dressed for summer. The first month at the Root House, I was given a docent manual and became acquainted with everyone that worked there at the time. I was given a lot of freedom with my time spent there. The executive director allowed me to choose what I spend my time doing as an intern at the Root House. I was provided access to resources that the museum already had, and then the rest of time was independent research. The atmosphere at the museum is very easy-going; help with projects was always requested and never pressed.

I think this the benefit that comes from working with a museum that relies somewhat heavily on volunteer work- the executive director and program coordinator avoid asking too much from their unpaid workers. Although I requested not to lead museum tours, I sat in during some of them to learn more about what a docent has to do as well as the typical visitors to the Root House Museum. Most of the visitors that I saw while I was there were either retirees or school aged children.

Aside from research and giving tours, a lot of the work at the museum involves arranging furniture and prepping for events. The room exhibits change almost every month, so furniture and décor have to be carefully moved around and arranged. The museum will host events, usually as an avenue to raise more money, and this also involves arranging tables and decorations in the garden. Otherwise, if you’re on the clock you might be asked to help sweep and dust. The Root House Museum is a good place for potential interns that want quiet, self-driven work. The other draw of the Root House is that the exhibits there touch a broad amount of subjects. The museum represents history, local history, business in 1800’s, the middle class during the 1800’s, horticulture and pharmacy, race, religion and gender. There are a lot of opportunities at the Root House for deeper studies into any of these subjects and more. The Root House Museum has connections to other local historians, other museums, and other historical societies. This museum is actually a very good place for people looking to make connections with other historical museums. It’s also a good place to learn how smaller scale museums maintain their exhibits, and turn out a profit.

The drawbacks of the museum start with the fact that internships will be unpaid. People who want more direction in their work, especially people who need consistent feedback, may not find the Root House as relaxing as I did. The days spent at the Root House are very slow, and some people need an environment where they constantly have something do and this just isn’t an environment that will keep anyone on their toes. Also research projects involve dead ends and this can be potentially frustrating for some people.

Grounded in History: Museum of History and Holocaust Education

Rebecca Ruggles

For my last fall semester at KSU, I interned at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education right here at the university. I worked with their curator Adina Langer researching and helping with upcoming projects for the museum. There I learned how much effort went into each exhibit that was on display within the museum.  Working at the museum proved to be a very fast paced and on the go environment especially when October rolled around, as that was when field trips from school would be scheduled to visit for tours. There were quite a few tours going on every week and the museum staff would often be out of the office visiting school with traveling trunks or mobile exhibits.

 I also helped with giving tours, but as a support role. I aided the docent giving the tour and assisting children with their work. I also transcribed an interview that was part of the ongoing project at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education called the Legacy Series Oral History Program. I was also working on setting up exhibits by researching information, helping create panels, and setting up display cases which .  I also tried to participate in many of the events they had going on such as their docent training, where they trained volunteers to be docents, and home school day, where children who are home schooled are visiting.

This was an amazing experience that I would recommend for others to do if they have the opportunity. I felt that working at the museum helped hone my research skills and let me see how I could potentially apply them in a workplace. I also learned a lot about the dynamics of a work environment for a museum and what it takes to be successful. Everyone I worked with was very nice and very knowledgeable in their work. If you decide to work here do try to interact with everyone, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and participate in events!

A Deep Dive Into the Past at Bulloch Hall

Molly Dangar

This summer I interned at Bulloch Hall in Roswell, GA. The site is located near the Roswell Mill, and was the childhood home of Mittie Bulloch, the mother of former president Theodore Roosevelt. The site showcases the Bulloch home as well as a garden, slave quarters, privy, carriage house, and two wells. Visitors can explore the grounds and learn about Roswell, GA, The Bulloch family, Theodore Roosevelt, and the way of life in the 1830’s.

Gwen Koehler, the Director of Education at Bulloch Hall, along with her coauthor Connie H., have published three books containing letters that the Bulloch family exchanged during the 19th century.  The books contain letters telling the story of the love affair between Mittie Bulloch and President Theodore Roosevelt Senior leading up to their wedding, the civil war, the couple’s move to Thee’s hometown in New York along with Mittie’s mother, and the hardships that the family faced during this time. These three books include letters between 1854 and 1864. For my internship I read, analyzed, transcribed, and digitized letters that were written between 1865 and 1869.  My college experience has involved printed textbooks and academic articles written by scholars, so it has been an interesting experience working with handwritten letters. Not to mention these letters are written in cursive with a fountain pen and inkwell, which now seems to be a lost art. After all of the letters are transcribed, Gwen and her coauthor Connie M. Huddleston will start the editing process and publish a fourth book containing letters written post 1965. In addition to transcribing letters, I had the opportunity to meet many docents (volunteers) at Bulloch Hall as well as some of the members of the different guilds that meet on the site such as the Gardeners Guild. During the middle of July Bulloch Hall hosts Camp Rough Riders, which is a day camp for kids ages 6-10 to come learn about the Bulloch and Roosevelt families, and do crafts relating to the time period.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bulloch Hall and wish that I could do it all over again. Being a student that is mostly interested in physical anthropology, I wasn’t sure what to expect while interning at a place that was more historically and culturally focused, but it was one of the best opportunities I have ever had. The ladies that work in the administrative office at Bulloch Hall rave about Kennesaw Students, and really know how to make you feel welcome. I did not feel like an intern while working at Bulloch Hall, I felt like family.