This summer, I had the privilege of interning at the Rockefeller Archive Center as part of the RAC-CCNY Internship Hybrid Program.
When I first saw the internship posting I doubted applying, worried that my lack of experience in Archival work would be a hinder not only to my application but also to my overall experience if I got accepted. After all, I could only offer a big passion for Library Science that had followed me throughout my childhood and a healthy combination of curiosity and determination to dip my toe in this semi-unknown career path, but that was enough for the RAC team to give me the opportunity to explore what it meant to be an Archivist during these times—especially times that had forced them to adapt and evolve after a global pandemic.
As a Senior English Major with a concentration in Literature and Minors in Social Studies, the vague idea that I had about Archival work was enough to make me excited about the internship; I knew it involved the preservation of documents and the facilitation of said documents to researchers, but now at the end of the program, the reality of the entire experience cannot be reduced down to a few technical aspects that doesn’t successfully convey what being part of the RAC team truly is.
While there were very complete and easy-to-digest sessions called RAC 101 videos that surrounded the intricacies of working in an Archive Center such as this one and explained all the different components of said organization, it was the hands-on experience that really allowed me to immerse myself deep into the internship in a seamless and effortless manner, and that also helped me grow the most during these three months. Interning at the Rockefeller Archive Center helped me gain a lot of valuable experience in different technical skills, and just as important, it honed and bettered my interpersonal skills thanks to how much the organization prioritizes teamwork, learning, and development in a safe and accepting environment.
The two main projects I worked on this summer were the Audiovisual Inventory and the Cultural Competent Description project and in their own ways, both projects targeted different pieces of me that would, later on, form vital parts of my overall internship at the RAC. The Audiovisual Inventory, supervised by Audiovisual Archivist Brent Phillips who was open to my endless number of questions and always encouraged me to approach him at any time, was a very special experience for me. Although I had previous experience with inventory work, it was so much more different knowing that I was handling boxes filled with well-preserved films that were part of a bigger collection and that in their own ways were unique. I loved spending time at the Preservation Lab, in great part because of the inventory itself, but also due to the pieces of information that Brent would readily share with me whenever I was curious about anything (Bonus points also given thanks to the video compilation of the Rockefeller’s home movies that Brent showed me mid-internship!).
On the other hand, the Cultural Competent Description involved much more research and cataloging on my part, as the project consisted of targeting problematic or outdated subject terms in some materials and recommending instead more up-to-date and modern subject terms that could replace the previous ones. This project was very personal to me, as I have encountered many documents as an English Major that use problematic and offensive terms but that are still permissible without a second look. To be able to contribute in any possible way to this ongoing project meant a lot to me, and the encouragement and support I received from the team supervising it really helped me be as passionate as they are at the time of completing this project.
Although everything I mentioned was fantastic and extremely educational, the best part of my internship was getting to know such amazing people that prioritized cultivating a kind and open environment. Every single person I met, everyone part of the staff at the Rockefeller Archive Center, took time to sit down with me and offered me words of reassurance and cheered me up along the way, and it was because there is such an awesome team behind the RAC that my internship was as special as it was. At first, I had no idea what to expect going into this internship and really didn’t know if a career in Library Science would be the best fit for me. After this summer, I can confidently say that it is. I never imagined that I would be so lucky to work with such an amazing team and be a part of so many amazing experiences in such a short time.