Six for Six

By: Amber Bailey (BMRC Processing Intern)

Tomorrow marks my last day as a processing intern with the BMRC.  While I’ve enjoyed my internship, I’m also fairly certain that tomorrow also marks the last day of my brief career as a processing archivist.  In honor of my premature retirement, I’ve decided to make a list of six things I’ve learned after six months of archiving.

  1. “A” is for awesome archivists

I’ve met more archivists and librarians over the last six months than I have in my entire twenty-one years of living.  I can honestly say that each one of them has been nothing but courteous and encouraging in the process of me learning how to process.  From my onsite supervisors to my bosses at the BMRC (and even my partner in processing and fellow intern at CHM and Roosevelt), everyone that I’ve met in the course of my internship has been awesome.  Thank you for making my experience enjoyable.

  1. Processing can be extremely tedious...

As someone who once watched golf tournaments on TV, I think that it’s safe to say that I am an expert at boredom -- a master of monotony if you will.  But I think that I met my match with archival processing.  In fact, the only job that I can think of that might be more tedious than processing is licking envelopes.  Of course, this is only one person’s opinion, but since this is my blog post, we’ll just assume it’s a fact.

  1. … But it can also be rewarding.

Processing wasn’t all boredom though.  As a matter of fact, at least once a day, I came across a document or photograph that reminded me of why I love history and why the work that I’ve been doing is important.  The lunatic letters that I wrote about a couple of months ago are just one example but there was also the copy of James Forman’s Black Manifesto, pictures of African Americans at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and a handwritten note from Maya Angelou to Senator Carol Mosely-Braun, among others that made the experience fun and memorable.

  1. There are a lot of great collections waiting to be uncovered.

While I have spent the entirety of my six month career processing the Carol Moseley-Braun collection, I’ve been more intrigued by the collections of some lesser known figures that my fellow interns have been working on.  The collections at the Dusable Museum of African American History, in particular, seem fascinating, and I’m glad that the BMRC is uncovering these awesome collections that I might not have known about or had access to otherwise.

  1. Processing isn’t for me,...

With six months of processing under my belt, I’ve come to the conclusion that processing just isn’t my bag.  As someone who would like to be an author and professional historian, I think that I’d be more fulfilled writing about materials in collections than organizing them.

  1. … But museum work still is.

When I first came to the BMRC, I only knew two things about what I wanted in terms of a career.  One was that I didn’t want to be a professor.  The other was that I wanted to work in an organization dedicated to preserving history (in its many forms) and making it accessible to the public.  Even as I prepare to end my internship, I know that both of those things are still true.  I still love history, and I couldn’t imagine working in any other field.

I suppose that the list was as much about things I’ve learned about myself as it was about things I’ve learned about actual processing.  But I hope that it was an interesting retrospective nonetheless.