This blog was written by Sam Rieta, masters student in Baylor’s Museum Studies program and the Dowdy Summer Intern at Poage Library.
My summer spent at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library acted as a great introduction to the world of archives and archival processes. It was my first time working in a library collection setting, but as the Dowdy Family Endowed Intern, my central project focused on planning the Poage Library’s portion of the iEngage Summer Civics Institute. Along with iEngage, I worked to process and rehouse the papers of Texas Congressman Ovie Clark “O.C.” Fisher. Lastly, I worked with Erik Swanson, the University Libraries exhibit curator and coordinator, to research and catalogue materials to be used in a new permanent exhibit on the main floor of the Poage Library.
As the internship began, my first project was processing and re-housing O.C. Fisher’s papers. Fisher was a long-serving Democratic Congressman who worked to support state’s rights and water conservation. Many of his papers and correspondence reflected his love for Texas and his work to assist his constituents. My responsibility in processing this collection focused on preservation in the form of rehousing the collection into new archival document boxes and folders. While performing the rehousing, I combed through the papers to review them for personally identifiable information (PII) and to update content list for the archival database.
Fisher’s papers are a rather large collection with hundreds of document boxes to process. Because of the scope of this collection, I worked to complete one series which focused on Fisher’s work with various government agencies. The preservation work fit squarely in with the best practices and methods I learned as part of the Collections Management course taught in the Museum Studies Graduate Program. The lessons I learned from this course, combined with the direction of archivists Mary Goolsby and Amanda Fisher, allowed me to practice and strengthen my archival skills. The process of carefully removing files, inspecting them for content and condition, and re-housing them in new archival containers taught me about the day-to-day responsibilities of an archivist. Not only did I learned and experienced these processes, but I became more proficient as the weeks passed. Overall, I was satisfied with what I gained from this project, with my only regret being I did not finish processing the entire Agencies series.
One of the other projects I enjoyed working on this summer was content accumulation for a permanent exhibit to be installed on the first floor of the Poage Library in the coming year. Under the direction of Erik Swanson, I and fellow intern Emma Whipkey were assigned key individuals or topics to find collections materials on. This content was then pulled and arranged to be analyzed by the design firm representative the library hired to create the exhibit which was based on public service and civic engagement. I have worked on exhibit design with courses like the design/management of museum exhibits, but it was an insightful experience to be on the customer side of the design process. I thought the dynamic and collaborative ways in which the firm and Erik exchanged information was incredibly interesting, especially how creative the firm could be with just photographs or concepts from the Poage’s collections.
My main project and highlight of the internship centered on the iEngage Civics Institute, a summer outreach program based out of the Baylor School of Education. Students (grades 5-8) come to Baylor for a weeklong camp, visiting various parts of the university to learn about civics and community engagement. My time at the Poage involved creating activities that were used by the students during our day of iEngage. I worked alongside fellow intern, Emma Whipkey and School of Education doctoral student Sarah Madsen to draft learning objectives, outcomes, and activity lists. Additionally, to connect the archival material of the Poage with iEngage activities, Emma and I combed the collections for objects that best presented each of the four activities created for the event. On the day of iEngage, Emma and I ran a photo puzzle activity aimed at having campers see parts of issues and coming together to know and learn how they can help solve problems in their community. We had some great interactions with the campers and all the other activities shared similar experiences. The success of iEngage at the Poage was a spectacular way to wrap up my internship after a summer spent researching and preparing.
Thank you to the Dowdy Family for providing the endowment funding my internship. My time at the Poage Library was a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow in archival experience, collections management, exhibit design, and education programming. My new skills will certainly serve me well as an emerging museum professional.