A welcome change from the bustling 125th street I am accustomed to, the tranquility and nature surrounding the Rockefeller Archive Center struck me the first day I arrived. From my first day here to my last, I was able to witness a cold and beautiful Brontë-esque winter transform into a bright and vibrant spring. The similarities in the transition of the seasons and my maturing and learning process while an intern at the RAC is not lost on me. I entered with little to no knowledge of the processes and facilities of archives, and left with a fully formed introduction to all aspects of the important work of archiving and with a hunger to work even closer to the field.

I was welcomed into a very inclusive and generous group of people that work here at the Archive Center that soon became my friends! Over lunch we would catch up on our weekends and the various projects everyone was working on. It is my firm belief that the interpersonal relationships formed and communication skills acquired are of equal importance to the knowledge and education gained from professional settings such as this and my college experience so far. Having grown up in the age of social media, I find experiences like this one so very important. The pandemic was a very isolating time for everyone, and now that we are a few years out from it, we can look back with hindsight at how detrimental isolation can be. More than any of the academic and inexhaustible resources I was granted access to, which I am incredibly grateful for, it is my experience with the staff at the Rockefeller Archive Center that will remain with me the longest. From my very first day, arriving in wide-eyed wonder at the beautiful estate, Collections Management staff members, Rueben, Erich, and Emeline gave me a tour and I’ve had a great relationship with them ever since!

Through numerous projects I learned many things, not only about what it means to be an archivist, but what it looks like to work in a collaborative and generous environment that encouraged my growth as an intern. Within my first week, I was brought down to the vaults and had the privilege of pulling materials for a project that was being displayed the following day. I was shown how to locate materials and pull them and how to properly put them on display. I, of course, was given the unique perspective of an archivist, a first-hand, behind the scenes look into how everything functioned. Being a film major, and seeing how archivists and researchers interacted, I was reminded of the relationship between directors and actors. The directors being the archivists, bearing the heavy responsibility of the security and preservation of these documents without which the actors (the researchers) would be at a loss. It is a symbiotic relationship that, I could tell, at the Archive Center was quite the perfected art. When I ran into one of the researchers getting a cup of coffee or bumped into them at the train station I would strike up a conversation with them. They would ask about my internship and where I went to school and I would ask them how their experience was and what they were researching. I was always met with the same answer regarding my first question: “This is the best archive I’ve ever researched at.” I kid you not, I nearly always got that response. And of course, the following remark was always “And it’s such a beautiful location!” I would fervently agree with them in both aspects and we would go our separate ways or continue talking about what they were researching.

As a film major, it was the film archives that interested me the most. Working with Audiovisual Archivist, Brent Phillips, I was shown how to work the Steenbeck, a very complex piece of machinery used here at the Archive Center to show films reels. Within my first few weeks I was shown how to inspect film and the science behind storing it. I was shocked when I was shown into the film vault on my first day for how cold it was! I could tell I was not alone in my fascination for the rich audio-visual facilities. From visiting NYU graduate students to a local sixth grade class, it was the Preservation Lab that captured the imagination of all of us. In an age of digital media, the preservation and education of physical media is of the utmost importance.

I am very grateful for my time here at the Rockefeller Archive Center in partnership with The City College of New York. From this experience I have learned many things, not only about the complex skills involved in archiving, but also about myself. I have grown personally and academically with this internship and greatly look forward to putting everything I learned into effect and to visiting in the future! I will always be a part of the Archive Center family and I’ll always be grateful.

A photo taken by Quinn Kinsella of the RAC driveway during the winter