As an undergraduate history major, history is something that has mostly existed for me in the abstract: as a set of ideas and arguments over the events of the past; humankind’s cumulative collection of stories that have shaped the present. Yet, I always knew that there was an underlying foundation, the physical evidence that holds together and allows researchers to expand the construction of history.

Being an on-site intern at the Rockefeller Archive Center has been an eye-opening experience in terms of teaching me that the process of making archival materials available for historians and other researchers is methodical and challenging. Meeting the staff of the RAC and learning about the various functions they perform in their jobs has given me an appreciation for the work that goes into the preservation and presentation of physical history. Getting to work on my own projects has also allowed me to develop skills that are applicable to many careers in addition to archives.

My experience began with the Archival Education program. On my first day, I was lucky enough to join members of the Research + Education Team in a fifth-grade classroom and participate in an educational program where students learned about archival materials and then developed grant proposals for their own creative projects. Although I was only there for the first day, it was a great experience to interact with young students, observe their engagement with the topic, and see ideas spark as they developed projects based on their interests.

I was also involved with the Research + Education team in adding suggested archival materials to the RE:Source posts. In addition to gaining more web development experience, I also was enriched by the content of the posts and seeing how archivists at the RAC tell stories with the archival materials at their disposal.

Finally, I had the opportunity to work on three inventorying projects over the course of the semester. Dealing directly with materials required attention to detail, as I had to record as well as determine for myself document names, dates, and formats correctly, in addition to maintaining the order of each collection I was presented with. While direction was provided, I was also given the freedom to figure methods out on my own and get feedback after, which was a rewarding process.

In total, I am incredibly grateful for my time at the RAC, an opportunity that I hope future CCNY students take full advantage of. While it can sometimes be difficult to imagine a career in the humanities, my experience at the RAC and observing the variety of academic and career backgrounds of the faculty have expanded my horizons and motivated me to continue on my current path.