Today on the blog we hear from Emma Rothberg, a 3rd year Ph.D. Student who works on 19th century United States’ history. Last summer Emma received a Clein Internship Award, which supplied summer funding in order for her to undertake an internship of her choice outside of traditional academia. Thanks to the generous support of Mark Clein, the History Department has typically offered 3 of these internships, and last summer they had 4! As we get closer to the call for applications, I’ll be writing more explicitly about some campus and community organizations that folks have interned for in the past. Look for calls to go out in the spring, with applications typically due around the end of March.

Emma writes…

This summer, I used my Clein Internship to work at Wilson Library Special Collections. Most of the summer, I worked on 1) writing blog posts for the library to highlight collections and 2) creating Library Guides for researchers. I wrote the Library Guides for the Civil War and Reconstruction, two large topics that Wilson receives a lot of research traffic for but did not have research aides for. Library Guides (or Lib Guides) are meant to serve as a starting place for researchers coming to Wilson, but they have further applications as pedagogical tools. Generally, Lib Guides will give an overview of the topic or era, list relevant secondary and primary resources, provide guides for further research, and list other databases that might be useful for research. Doesn’t sound too exciting, I admit, but the Library Guides are extraordinarily important for Wilson (as anyone who has done research there can attest) and I was happy to contribute.

1) What skills from your Ph.D. training did you use in your internship? How often did you use them and were they valued by your coworkers or supervisors?

I mostly used my knowledge of relevant sources and search terms when writing the Library Guides. Since they are meant to serve as a starting point rather than an exhaustive list, I called upon my historiographical knowledge in order to present a comprehensive overview of the Civil War and Reconstruction that covered major topics of inquiry. My coworkers and supervisors really appreciated that I had this knowledge, which was why they gave me the task in the first place. They trusted that the way I wanted to present the information regarding the Civil War and Reconstruction and relevant source material was based on good scholarship and an understanding of the field. Basically, they trusted me not to lead researchers astray or to present them a biased viewpoint from the get go.

2) What additional skills did you learn or cultivate in your internship that we aren’t necessarily trained for in the graduate program here at UNC?

I learned how to write Library Guides for Wilson, which is a useful skill if I want to go into archives but not really in another capacity. Mostly I learned how to deal with people who had full-time, non-academic jobs who operated on a different schedule than me. To be honest, there were some structural difficulties that hampered how much I could truly learn for the summer period. I blame that more on the craziness that was Wilson Library this summer (consolidation of 4 reading rooms into 1), but I was left on my own a lot without enough to do, which is a challenge I’ve heard from other people who have had internships in the past.

 3) Do you think that the organization or institution that you worked with is interested in having more graduate interns in the future?

I know my supervisor, Jason Tomberlin, is extremely interested in having other History Graduate students work for Wilson. Mostly, they get undergrads (who do the desk jobs, retrieving books and stuff) and SILS students. However, there are a lot of opportunities to do real archival work there if someone is interested (creating finding aides, organizing collections, writing library guides, etc). While I did not find my experience there as fruitful as it could have been, I don’t think that would be the case going forward. Plus, working at Wilson means you can stay at home, use Chapel Hill Transit, and work on campus with a flexible schedule meaning that the Clein funds really do help you cover summer expenses.