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Summer Archives Internship Reflection from Sophia Terry

By Maggie Schreiner

Posted on September 16, 2020

Schwarren, Litchfield VIlla, circa 1880, arc.202.box17.113; Photograph and illustration collection, ARC 202, Brooklyn Historical Society.

I’m both lucky and thankful to have gotten the opportunity to intern at the Brooklyn Historical Society this past summer.

2020 has been unique in its challenges, and at the end of a disjointed spring semester, I was left without a real plan for the summer. When I came across a notice for a remote internship through the Brooklyn Historical Society that seemed to fit my area of interest, I decided to apply, despite having never physically been to Brooklyn. And although I communicated with my coworkers largely via Zoom, I’m fortunate to be able to say I’ve had a wonderful experience and I’ve learned a great deal about archiving and public history–from an itemized level to the career field as a whole.

The first project I worked on was processing a selection of historic photographs and images of Brooklyn. Although I had some experience with this kind of item-level categorization from previous work, the processing workflow at BHS was more complex and detailed, and it made me appreciate the similarities and differences between the processing systems of different institutions. It was incredibly valuable to learn another system and engage with different aspects of archiving, from the copyright and legal information to identifying key terms and points of identification with the Library of Congress database. I enjoyed studying the images individually and writing descriptions for each one–it felt like I was getting to discover Brooklyn and its visual history from afar.

Later on, I got to work with another component of Brooklyn Historical Society: creating social media content. I had the opportunity to contribute selections of the image processing work I had done to a practiced, large-scale system and become part of their digital output and outward involvement with the community. Getting to work with the BHS social media process offered a valuable window into an area of the inner workings of BHS, and I found the process of turning cataloguing work and metadata into a form accessible to the public exciting and gratifying. The final project I worked on was processing a set of three oral histories about the Brooklyn waterfront area. These three oral histories were all people with deep ties to Brooklyn who had seen the area go through numerous changes in their time, and listening to their stories was both powerful and affirming to my career interest in the archives. I enjoyed getting the chance to hear these people tell their stories in their own words and learn about the history and character of Brooklyn through people who have lived it. Oral history processing was a completely new area to me and I learned so much through the experience of using different kinds of software and working with both the audio and the transcript–formatting, editing, audio editing, syncing, and all the work that goes into preparing to make the oral histories available to the public.

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