Interning at LNDL Archives & Special Collections

Photo of Christiana McClain

Archives Intern Christiana McClain is a graduate student pursuing her Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) with a focus on Archives and Digital Curation at the University of Maryland, College Park.

I’ve been working as an intern at LNDL since January, and I feel very fortunate to be gaining the experience here. If there is anything that I’ll remember most from working here, outside of my assigned duties, it will be the importance of a work environment. While this is not my first time working in an archive, it’s my first time working in an environment that centers individuality and creativity while also fostering relationships between co-workers and superiors. I feel safe, valued, and respected as an archivist in training and as a young professional.

As an intern, the scope of my work centers on processing collections. The most valuable part of gaining this processing experience is the ability to have processed different types of collections and artifacts in such a short period of time. For instance, my very first collection that I processed had to do with informational management systems and consisted of publications, essays, and lectures. I dealt mostly with printed text. However, recently I’ve been working through an art collection and I’ve learned how to appropriately process the widest canvas I’ve probably ever seen in my life. I feel like I’m exposed to different ways of processing various types of artifacts, which gives more room to think creatively while also applying some of the things I’m learning in school.

A book sitting open on a foam book rest in the Archives Reading Room

There are two things that I’ve discovered are my favorite. Prior to interning here, I thought that manuscripts and letters were my favorite things to process; however, I’ve fallen in love with the difference in paper across the years and with photograph slides. My favorite part of interning here is having the chance to nerd out over the smallest details in the weight, color, or feel of a random piece of paper and being able to use this small machine that lights up the tiniest slides of photos. I have the opportunity to explore small details that might have gone unnoticed.

As an MLIS student and soon-to-be archivist, I fully understand and recognize how rare internships–let alone internships like this – truly can be. If I could recommend this position to any potential student, it would be to someone who is creative, motivated, and patient. Much of this necessary work requires completing multiple steps multiple times in order to ensure that things are done correctly. Even more than that, I would recommend it to a student who considers “legacy” a foundational part of their personal philosophy. Whenever I’m processing a collection that may not completely align with my interests, I think about how important it is to do my job so that people relying on this work can achieve their goals.