English major Stephanie Clowe, above, poses with her “Haunted Houses of Saint Rose Display.” At her internship at the Hellman Library, she worked with Maria Kessler McShane, librarian and archivist. This is her report.
What does an archivist do? This is the question that plagues every archives intern.
I could tell you that an archivist
- Preserves history and cultural heritage
- Digitizes materials for accessibility
- Assists with research
I could also stress
- how an archivist selects what is significant and worth saving
- how an archivist describes the content and conditions of materials
- how an archivist preserves materials in acid free folders in temperature-controlled rooms
But what I have learned from my experience as the Neil Hellman Library archives intern is how much people love Saint Rose. The history of the College reveals that the traditions of learning, growing and believing in one another are perhaps the strongest qualities of Saint Rose. The support of faculty, students and administrators has been present since the beginning in 1920. What the Saint Rose Archives does is outline the community that the College has created; it’s in the maps, the yearbooks, the photos, the newspapers and the books.
The history of the College would not mean anything if not for the students, past and present. Every student that comes to Saint Rose dreams of achieving a similar goal: to develop abilities, acquire knowledge and the ultimate goal of a meaningful life.
On my first day in the archives my supervisor, Maria Kessler McShane, took me to the special collections. This locked room on the third floor of the library reminds me of the second rule of the archives: what‘s in the archives stays in the archives. This means that the materials in the special collections are non-circulating. Members of the Saint Rose community can look at items and documents but not remove them from the library.
The archive’s special collection is home to the rare book collection, the crowns of all Rose queens, college documents, and realia, which is the term archivists use to categorize three-dimensional objects. The special collections is cool, literally: the room must be at a certain temperature to maintain the quality of the materials. Looking around this windowless room I realized a crucial element of the archives: storage. The college archives is home to a lot of paper products: theses, announcements, photos, but also, glassware, the original Rose Queen gown, and banners. All of these items take up space. Exploring the special collections of the Neil Hellman library helped me to understand just exactly what an archive is and also began my thoughts on projects.
My main project this past semester was blogging under the title “Tales from the Archives.” Each week I would search the archives for a story, something that I wanted to share with the community about Saint Rose’s history. There were times when I really struggled to choose something. What would people find interesting? I wrote blogs about the Saint Rose Chronicle and other student publications. I wrote about the alma mater, course listings, campus maps, and Neil Hellman. Every blog post included a picture that I scanned from the primary document and links to the archives website. Researching for the blog posts was fundamental. The more materials I found meant the more I had to write about.
My favorite project this semester was my display, “Haunted Saint Rose,” in the library window. Among other things October is National Archives month. I created an exhibit about ghostly activity on the college campus. I began researching for this project in the vertical files and found information already assembled on ghosts.
Most of the information about ghosts on campus talked about the same buildings. I compiled the most interesting stories and began searching for ghostly materials in other places. I listened to Sister Dorothy Flood talk about her experience in Carey Hall. I found creepy Halloween photos and a Halloween dance card from 1939. Researching and writing my project was the major part of the display. However, assembling the materials and developing an aesthetic layout was much more time-consuming. After two and a half weeks I took my display down, packed up my materials in a folder, in a box, in the special collections, happily knowing that if someone is ever interested in paranormal activity on the Saint Rose campus. The research is done.
Two other minor projects that I worked on were digitizing the college’s online photo collection and writing supplements to the oral histories. Any romantic would love to look through the photo collection. The boxes I looked through were all from the 1960’s. This was a fascinating time in Saint Rose’s history. So much change. The college went co-educational, non-denominational, there was an increase in “day-hops” or commuter students and the college expanded physically buying more property and building the Events and Activities Center. Scanning, cropping, titling, describing and exporting are all things that went into this project. Out of all of my projects this semester I think I learned the most about the college from listening to the Oral Histories. All of the interviews I listened to were from Sisters who spent decades teaching at the college. Their passion for learning is awe-inspiring; most of the Sisters while teaching were students themselves and achieved Ph. D.’s for this project I listened to each oral history multiple times, wrote a small biography of the Sister, a summary of the interview and a list of subjects discussed.
The skills I have developed as an English major–reading, writing, and researching–truly helped me in my internship. After I graduate in the spring I would like to attend graduate school and study Information Science. The best advice I can give future interns is be enthusiastic about everything. Even the small assignments are important and deserve your full effort and attention.
The archives is an abundance of information. (And yes, I looked in Jimmy Fallon’s file.) Anything you want to know about Saint Rose is in the archives. If you want to see a picture of nuns playing instruments, it’s in the photo collection. If you want to see the Rose Day procession from 1939, it’s in the video collection. If you want to read the first edition of the first student newspaper The Arrow it’s in the newspaper collection.
Maybe I’ve become a nerdy archivist intern, but that somehow seems redundant (like all archivists/ librarians are innately nerdy). And that is something so wonderful because of the archivist’s love of sharing the past with the future.