SLIS Internship - National Archives, Chicago Branch

IU Campus - a snowy day
IU Campus - a snowy day

As a part of her Master of Library Science degree, SLIS student Ashley Schoolman completed a Specialization in Archives and Records Management. We asked about her SLIS S605 Internship experience in a recent email interview. Ashley just finished at SLIS — and is a December 2009 MLS graduate.

From Ashley Schoolman:

"To complete my specialization in Archives and Records Management I had to complete a 180-hour internship in the field, which I did with the National Archives and Records Administration branch in Chicago.

Although the short time span of my internship prevented me from taking on a truly comprehensive work-plan, I was still exposed to some very interesting things. The first few days were hectic due to a large shipment of records to another facility and the ending of the fiscal year, but that was over before long. My main job, which was a huge help to the archives, was locating and re-housing about 30 years worth of bankruptcy dockets. This was a particularly good exercise in patience. More exiting work involved genealogy and preservation: the other intern, Frank, and I were both encouraged by staff to work on our personal genealogies using tools available at the facility, and I was able to find the naturalization petition of my great-great-grandfather. We were also able to tackle some of the long backlog of preservation work on mold-infested Lac Courte Oreille tribe census rolls and mud-covered boarding school rolls, both from the 1870’s. Another task included entering information from 1800’s Cuyahoga County admiralty cases into a spreadsheet for transfer into a database, and some of these contained colorful stories of shipwrecks and drunk ship captains which kept me pretty amused. I also had opportunity to assist with reference questions and interact with researchers, and I really enjoyed this.

Other highlights included several pizza parties (who knew!?), meeting Abe Lincoln and Harriet Tubman at a NARA-sponsored Civil War symposium, reading documents from a libel case involving Annie Oakley, and working with great staff and volunteers. Frank and I’s last just-for-fun work was tracking down John Brown’s first bankruptcy case file; we made agency-wide news when finding it and it is now in secured storage at the Archives!

There were a few challenges as well. My internship was condensed into a few workweeks, which I feel limited my experience. Learning to understand the internal-use finding aids was a nightmare, although they are working to remedy that. Lastly, the steep learning curve that comes with the territory of such a large collection was intimidating, to say the least.

Overall, my experience interning at the National Archives was great. I would recommend exploring this option to anyone able to intern out-of-town who is interested in a career in archives or records management."

Posted January 12, 2010