By Alyssa Kapelka, History B.A. alum and current M.A. student
By the time I had reached my senior year of my undergrad, I was finally sure of where I fit in with the field of history. I wanted to be a public historian and deal with history first hand. As I did my research, I found that many museums and archival enters required experience before being hired (the case with many professions). So I began applying for internships, the best way I could receive field experience all while being a full time student. I applied to any local archive and history museum I could think of and was accepted by one, the BGSU Center for Archival Collections (CAC).
I was given many different projects at the CAC, but my largest and most time consuming was the task of processing MS-254, also known as The Engels and Krudwig Winery Collection. Our former CAC director, Steve Charter, was going to deaccession and throw the collection away, but after I had looked through some of the first few boxes, I felt that there was potential. So in February of 2016, I began the 6-month processing project for MS-254. In an archival setting, processing is when a person, or archivist, goes through the collection, getting rid of unnecessary papers and documents. This process is not as simple as it sounds and can take much time.
Once this process was competed, the collection was narrowed from 40 boxes to 21. By this time, I was in the middle of my first year of Grad school here at BGSU and had been hired on at the CAC as a part time student assistant. I had also been enrolled in a Local History course and had chosen to write about the winery and its business during World War II for my final paper. The paper I wrote for Local history is one that will be taking to a history conference in March and is a possible area of research for my upcoming MA thesis project. All of this had come to me from one simple undergraduate internship.
The step that I am currently working on is putting official labels on each folder in the collection. Once this step is completed, it will be time to write the finding aid; my goal for this project. The finding aid is the online resource that lists the collection, it’s history, scope, and its holdings for patrons to search online (see here for a guide of a similar collection). My research into this collection and analysis of documents while processing will be of great help when I begin to compose. MS-254 will be an official collection at the CAC one I finish the finding aid. Patrons can come in, look up my finding aid on our website, and then can request the collection for research. Not only is it great practice for my future career as an archivist, but this wonderful piece of history is now preserved for research and enjoyment.
My experience shows that a lot can come from becoming involved in volunteer work or an internship in your respective field. Experiences like mine can lead to jobs, thesis topics, networking opportunities and so much more. My advice to all undergraduates and incoming grad students is to take these experiences when you can. They can be time consuming, but they can also lead you down paths that will aid you in your future academic and professional careers.