Merry Wanderer of the Night + state historical society

Figure it Out: Internship Week One

So after much debating I decided to just write about what I know this summer, and what I know about right now is being an intern. I have an unpaid internship with the State Historical Society of Iowa this summer working in the archives and this was my first week. I applied for a few different paid internships but none of them were quite the right fit for me, and with the economy it's harder than ever for us liberal arts kids to find paying internships. Since I'm not getting paid I'm working ten hours a week right now, on two different days. Even though I'm not getting paid I still think I'm getting valuable experience, in addition to building contacts and references.

My first day on the job I was given four boxes and after hearing a little background information on the collection they told me to set out. Set out?!?! I had no idea what I was doing! I still don't! So right now I'm basically sifting through a collection of personal papers and making a list of what the collection contains. I got pretty bored with that after four hours on Tuesday, but today I came across something really interesting. About ten years ago in Iowa there was a real push to get an inmate out of the women's prison in my hometown of Mitchellville, Iowa. I became extremely engrossed in old newspaper articles about her as well as letters vying for or against her release. I tried to find something about it on the Internet when I got home today, but so far I haven't found any luck. It was a nice way to spend a half hour today though; it felt like getting lost in a really good book.

A little later I got set up on the computer network and got to start indexing death certificates from 1924. This sounds morbid and it is, but it's also extremely interesting. In the fifty or so certificates I indexed today I found that most of the people who dyed were one-year-old or younger, or over the age of seventy. It seems like if you could just get past that one year you would live a very long life. There were unfortunately quite a few suicides in the batch I went through, mostly retired farmers and the things they would kill themselves with were just... ugh. Carbolic acid was a favorite. The most challenging part of indexing the death certificates is trying to read the doctor's handwriting! Every once in awhile you'll come across one that is typed and that is the best part of the day.

Have any of you worked in or with an archive? What was your first internship?

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Figure it Out: Internship Week One + state historical society