I’ve been asked by many people during the first couple weeks back in Ann Arbor about my experience this summer and I feel I should take a moment to put into words the impact that this summer has had on me. Overall, my internship at the Library of Congress was unbelievable. I truly enjoyed every moment I spent on the clock this summer and the lessons learned will serve me well in the future. I can confidently say that I developed my research skills to their full capacity at this point in my academic career. My projects opened my eyes up to how much content is available in the world of academia that I didn’t even know existed. Universities and government bodies spend tons of money on building databases and retrieving materials for research that students our age never utilize. We are quick to just google answers and if we do not come up with an immediate result, we just move on and find something that’s easier to access. My internship taught me that spending the time to use databases for research other than Google can enhance your work tremendously. Aside from the educational skills my experience taught me, I feel that I learned how to function in a classic office setting. We had everything from conference room meetings to water cooler chats. I feel confident in my office etiquette moving into next summer. Needless to say, my time at the Library of Congress definitely had a positive impact on me.
This image depicts one of the best moments of my summer. This was taken right as I finished the project I’ve been working on for almost 3 months. Countless hours were put into this folder and writing “complete” on it was a feeling I will never forget.
I am now just over a month into my internship at the Library of Congress. Heading into the summer, I thought I would be spending my days staring at old books and inputting information into Excel for hours on end. I am happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong, as my experience at the Library has been so many different things packed into one.
One of the biggest surprises this summer has been my work in the Geography and Maps Division at the Library. When I originally applied and interviewed for this position, the Maps Division was never mentioned to me and I was hesitant when I was told I would spend 2-3 hours a day in a different part of the Library. I can now say that working with the maps has been my favorite project so far. Being the first person to work on the Dutch maps is very rewarding because my indexing and organizing is already being used by researchers. It has also been extremely interesting to see the general trends and how much mapping technology improved through the 16th and 19th centuries. Mapping itself improved substantially but the display and design of the actual physical maps that were distributed became simpler and less artistic as time moved on.
Another thing that I’ve found surprising this summer is how much I get to work in other divisions throughout the library. With my main project of researching historical Dutch-American newspapers, my research has taken me to the Rare Books, Folklife, Newspapers and Current Periodicals, Collections and Processing, and Preservation divisions. In Rare Books, I handled Dutch satirical pamphlets from the earliest days of the New World. Throughout these divisions I have met many people that were very helpful in aiding me with my research project. I thought I would be confined to working exclusively with the European Division, but I have been able to move around every day and experience different collections and people.
Overall, my whole experience in DC has surprised me. The internship has offered me much more than I ever could have imagined. The people in our division are great connections that have already taught me countless skills and lessons pertaining to research.
This is my second week with the European Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Last week was spent doing mostly orientation with the various departments that I will be working with and meeting people all over the library. It was a lot of information to take in for just a few days, but this week I feel settled in and ready to start my summer projects. The European Division was very friendly and helpful when I arrived and I can’t wait to spend the next three months around such intelligent and motivated people.
This summer I will be working on two main projects. The library has over 400,000 Dutch-American documents in its collections. The collection consists of books, manuscripts, newspapers, music, periodicals, and phonebooks. For my first project, I research Dutch-American newspapers and will create a large index bibliography of the documents. The work consists of browsing online catalogs and old research guides to locate the newspapers and request them to our reading room. With them in hand, I will record specific information and document it into an organized list to aid future researchers. Half of the newspapers are in the English language and the other half are in Dutch. The newspapers are first hand accounts of affairs and the daily lives of Dutch people in early America.
For my second large project, I will work three days a week in the Maps and Geography Division of the Library of Congress. I am assigned to work on the Titled Collection Indexing Project and will be focusing on the library’s maps of the Netherlands. Much like the newspapers, I will work through thousands of Dutch maps and index specific information about them including the date, maker, publisher, context, scale, and unique qualities such as artwork, tables, poems, etc . So far, I have indexed and physically handled around ten original maps that date back to the early 1600’s. Working with the Dutch maps has already been an unbelievable experience.
In terms of opportunities, I am the first person to work on the maps of the Netherlands and the indexing of Dutch-American newspapers at the library, so my work this summer will be published online and throughout the library. It will be great to know that my work will directly help researchers in the future. These projects are also a great opportunity to further develop my research skills for my future study of history and eventually law.
The biggest challenge that I face in my internship deals with my somewhat limited knowledge of the Dutch language. I am surrounded by people in the European Division that are fluent in both English and the other various languages they work with. I, on the other hand, have only two years of the Dutch language at UofM. I feel that I am at a working proficiency with the language but nonetheless it will still take me extra time to perform tasks that would be simple for others in the division. Everyone is very understanding and happy to help in anyway they can as the library is a very complex system to understand. I am excited to get working on my projects this week and to continue learning from the people around me.