The RAC partnered with the City College of New York in 2018 to develop the RAC-CCNY Internship Program to introduce the archival profession to undergraduate students. During this past fall semester, the program shifted to a remote internship. Here is a reflection on the experience by one of our interns.
I found my place at the Rockefeller Archive Center despite never having stepped foot in the building. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges, one being “How do you successfully complete an internship remotely?” My experience at the RAC was defined not only by a variety of projects, but by thought-provoking, insightful discussion making this internship a formative experience in my college career. At a time when I’ve increasingly questioned my purpose and what I stand for, I found many answers within the archival profession.
Where did I fit within an organization where I had zero experience, and what could I gain from a remote internship? An internship where I’d never get to speak to staff in person or step foot in a vault? The concept of a remote internship was new to all of us and required an open-minded approach rooted in reflection and communication. Practicing these two concepts resulted in a fulfilling experience where I was able to find meaning and personal connection within the archival community. As an intern, our work and opinions may feel undervalued, however, the RAC offered the opposite experience inviting me to a space where my voice mattered and was valued.
I was involved in projects that allowed me to gain skills that one may need in the field, but what I’ll remember most are the discussions I’d have with my supervisor and other staff during our weekly, informative meetings and presentations. Mixed in with the technical information I learned related to security, preservation, and vault management, were questions about ethics, outreach, the future of archives, and how we all found meaning in the profession. These discussions helped me visualize my place within an archive career-wise in the near future. These discussions changed my perception of archives as an inaccessible space meant for historians to the idea of an archive as a “living,” creative space that I could find value in, as an artist and creative. I was able to re-discover the significance of my own visual art and find ties between identity and archives.
The internship made me realize my interest in education, as I was able to be involved in the intersection of archives and K-12 programming. I found joy in seeing children connect the significance of archives to their own experiences, at times coming up with questions I’d never think to ask. Many of the third graders who were in the class the RAC works with found personal connections to the arts and to their day-to-day lives. They were able to articulate and begin to find meaning in archives, an idea I was only just realizing.
It is now mid-December and my time at the RAC has passed by so quickly. However, I feel that I was given all the time in the world to reflect about my experiences here. In a time when too many things are going on at once, that space and time for reflection is what I valued most from my time at the RAC. It is something I hope to experience and carry on in my future endeavors.