This blog was written by Isabella Haelen
Interning at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library this past summer was one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career. Being surrounded by people who are so knowledgeable and passionate about Baylor’s Collection of Political Materials was inspiring, and it created a positive atmosphere that promoted discovery and learning every day.
My primary task as the Dowdy Intern was to work on processing the Clark Thompson papers, who served as the former Congressman for the 9th district of Texas from 1944-1966. I began this process by looking through the 47 boxes that made up the Clark Thompson papers to try to get a better understanding of what types of documents/subjects made up the collection, and then I created a processing plan for how I wanted to organize the papers. I presented this plan to my supervisor, Amanda Fisher, and after talking it over with her and getting some insight into how to approach the processing procedure, I dove into the papers.
While processing any Congressman’s career is sure to be interesting, the Clark Thompson papers were particularly exciting because of the time period over which his career spanned. He served in public office during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy assassination, and the Texas City Disaster of 1947. In addition, the Civil Rights Act was passed during his time in office, and this, along with a greater push for equal rights for women, resulted in many passionate letters from Thompson’s constituents that were particularly interesting to read. These examples were just a few of the countless historical events I came across in the Thompson papers, and when the collection is complete, it is sure to be an excellent source for research purposes, and for anyone wanting to get a better understanding of some of America’s most exciting decades in history.
Another exciting part of my summer internship was the opportunity to plan the iEngage 2017 Day at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library. Each year, Poage hosts over 100 students from the iEngage Summer Civics Institute, underwritten by the Hatton Sumners Foundation, as a way to teach them more about the legislative branch, citizenship, etc., and this year’s focus was primarily on civic engagement. I spent much of the summer working with the incredible Poage team to create five stations that each covered a different aspect of civic engagement, and I was blown away by the creativity and willingness the Poage staff put into making their stations successful.
The five stations included:
1) the differences between dialogue and debate,
2) ways in which the students can be exemplary citizens in their communities,
3) the significance of W. R. Poage’s international travel for the Agriculture Committee,
4) the importance of campaign slogans and allowing students to create their own slogan ideas, and
5) letters written to Congressmen that addressed various issues and helped students get a better understanding of how to write a letter to their representatives.
All in all, iEngage 2017 was a success, and it was a pleasure to not only plan the day, but to also interact with the 100+ kids that were so eager to learn more about government.
While my time as the Dowdy Intern was only 10 weeks long, it was a time of constant learning and growth. I now feel as though I have a better understanding of the legislative process and the duties of an elected official, but even more, I have a better understanding and appreciation of how an archive works and its importance in research and historical preservation. I am so grateful for the opportunity that W. R. Poage Legislative Library provided me this summer, and I can’t wait to take all that I have learned with me into my senior year and as I begin my career.