As a college student studying history, I always get the question, “What are you going to do with your degree?” Then I explain that history majors aren’t just left with teaching or staying in academia. There are many other sectors that need history people. This past January I was a reference services intern for IHS. And this experience gave me another look into the broad and growing world of careers rooted in a love for history.
I have been working in the library and archives department and gaining skills, knowledge, and perspective. As my first time working in an archive setting, I have seen just a small part of all the long work it takes to maintain archives and organize historic material. It is a huge task to make more materials and documents accessible to the public. Here at IHS, I have been able to step my toes into the world of archives and the work needed for management, care, and public access.
Looking over the work completed, there are so many stories and people to parse through when you have just one folder in one box in a whole room of historical documents. I was tasked to work on collection guides which provide a condensed look at a collection so library users can have an idea of the scope and details of a collection before viewing it. It provides details about the people and contents in the collection which helps them see if the collection is what they want to access. Working on one collection takes time and attention to detail. One must look at the collection, summarize it, and do outside research.
I love how working in the history field there are so many lives and stories you uncover and get to discover. You see glimpses into a person and their community, and it is your task to represent the small glimpse of their life. It is not just about what you have discovered, but how to share that discovery for others to understand.
The work here is done by lovely people who care for the past as we move forward. Everyone has a necessary role. This internship has given me a look into jobs in public history, library science and archives. There is so much work that has been done and needs to be done. History majors are not destined for one path but have quite a few to choose from. I am excited to see how all of us history nerds will use our passion and care for stories and sources about the people of the past. History and our present communities need our work and attention.