I have always been interested in history. From a young age, I loved reading and learning about the cultures of the past, but I didn’t know how I could best apply this in the form of a career. Usually, whenever I told someone I was a history major, they would ask me whether I wanted to be a history teacher or not, which led me to think for a while that the only thing that could be done with a history degree is teaching.
I never liked the idea of standing in front of a group of people and presenting in school, and frankly, the idea of doing the same thing for the rest of my life terrified me. Because of that, I wasn’t sure for a while if I even wanted to remain a history major, so I started researching different careers and I came across archive work. It seemed reasonably quiet, and I would get to spend all my time reading and researching the past, but I wasn’t sure if it was something I would want to do for the rest of my life. I needed a means of finding out if I could enjoy something like archival work, and an internship seemed the perfect way to do that.
I live in a small fishing town in southern Maine, known as Yarmouth. We have a history center that offers internships to local high schoolers, but will also allow college students to do the same if they can secure funding from their universities. After doing just that, I started working around early June of 2022.
Because Maine did not become a state until 1820, very few items in the collection are any older than that. I typically spend my time at the history center cataloging new additions to the collection, indexing any texts, and photographing and scanning new items to be added to our online database. In short, it is my job to write a short description of any items that come in, note any damage the item has received, as well as scan it (if it is small enough to easily fit on the scanner). Otherwise, I will be indexing lengthy texts, which so far have been a series of magazines from 1899, and a scrapbook from 1936 which documented several Maine authors from the era. What I will do is read through the text and make notes of what was written. More often than not I will look up any particularly interesting information online to add as supplementary information to the texts. Recently, I just finished reading about an Arctic explorer by the name of Robert Peary, who lived from 1856-1920. The text itself was written by Donald MacMillan (1874-1970), another explorer who had gone on several expeditions with Peary.
As for the photo that goes along with this post, the Yarmouth History Center also focuses on the clothing that people wore back in the day. One of the staff members knows about clothing trends through the past few centuries and found a hoop skirt pattern online, so she sewed two bedsheets together and made a hoop skirt that both myself and two other interns were able to try on.
Overall, I am truly enjoying my time as an intern at the Yarmouth History Center. Before I went in, I wasn’t sure if I would want to spend my life as an archivist, but now I can’t imagine a life without it. I have learned fascinating things about the town I live in, everything from the ideas people held to the construction of the town over the decades.