For week three of our fall internship interview series, we have Angela Perkins! Angela is a second year iSchooler studying archives and preservation. Don’t forget, if you missed any of the previous student interviews in this series you can catch up here.
Where is your internship and what do you do?
- I am currently the Black Diaspora Archives Graduate Research Assistant (GRA). The Black Diaspora Archive is housed at the Benson Latin American Collection Library, and I work there on the top floor in Special Collections.
What drew you to this internship?
- I’m an African American student studying archives at the School of Information (iSchool). I learned about the Black Diaspora Archive and this GRA position from Rachel Winston, the Black Diaspora Archivist, who is also an iSchool graduate. I became an acquaintance of hers in the fall of my first year through the iSchool and the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA).
What have you enjoyed most about your internship?
- The most enjoyable aspect of my job so far is the fact that I have an oddly personal connection to the collection that I’m processing, the Edmund W. Gordon papers. Edmund W. Gordon is a distinguished professor and administrator, minister, and clinical and counseling psychologist who has spent much of his career (dating from the late 1940s) at Yale University, Teachers College, Columbia University, the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME), and City University of New York (CUNY). I was born in the Bronx, NY, and raised in Yonkers, NY in Westchester County. I have a close relationship with the secondary and higher educational network in NYC and Westchester. Gordon spent some time working closely with New York University’s Metro Center for Urban Education, which was the school that my mother attended for her doctorate degree in education in the 1970s. He also consulted the Yonkers Board of Education on the school desegregation effort in the late 1980s/early 1990s; my mother recently retired from her 30+ year career as an American history teacher, then later as an administrator (Vice-Principal) in Yonkers Public Schools. Gordon also co-founded the CEJJES Institute in Rockland County, an area directly north of Westchester that I am familiar with from my upbringing. Having this special experience has given me unusual insight into the materials that I’ve been processing.
What have you learned from your internship?
So far I’ve learned that it was the right move to take a job working in an archive from the first semester of my first year! I say that because the Gordon Papers is the largest collection (approx. 250 linear feet) that I’ve ever processed, and I’m working on my own. My previous experience working as an Archives Assistant at the Archives of the Episcopal Church has been directly valuable in how I manage the workload of this collection. I have solid foundational principles for appraisal, selection, arrangement, and description, and I am able to work autonomously when necessary.
What skills, knowledge or experience did you develop in a class that you have used at this internship?
- I’m currently taking Intro to Audio Preservation and Reformatting and Survey of Digitization. The lab skills in audio and video digitization that I’ve gained in these courses have recently come in handy since we’ve hit a cache of A/V materials in the collection at this point. There are enough audiocassettes, microcassettes, and audio reels that I’m making the appraisal and digitization of these materials the focus of my Capstone for my last semester.
How did you find this internship position? What resources did you use?
As I mentioned before, I became friends with Rachel Winston, the Black Diaspora Archivist, long before I even knew this GRA position existed. Networking is a skill that has taken me a long time to learn, but that I use regularly now to gain new and interesting work.
When did you begin searching for an internship and how long did it take to find this position?
I am always looking for work, lol. I was working as a Business Librarian Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) at the time that I learned about this position from Rachel in late 2015. I just made sure to keep checking in with her until university processes opened the position to the public for applications in 2016.
Is there a class that you’d recommend to students interested in developing the skills needed to work in a similar internship/position?
A student interested in this kind of position absolutely needs to take Intro to Archival Enterprise I. It is essential. Otherwise, I lean towards the audiovisual preservation sector of archival work, and I can definitely recommend Intro to Audio Preservation and Reformatting (I’m also taking the Advanced course in my last semester), Intro to Digital Humanities, Survey of Digitization, and the Music, Copyright, & Technology courses for a wide array of skills that you will need to understand and perform effectively in this capacity.
What advice would you give other students searching for an internship or work opportunity?
Be friendly and willing to speak with anyone in your path about your interests. You never know who may have some information about a position that may be suitable for you, or who may share your interests. Anyone can point you in the right direction to an opportunity. Also always be in a helping mindset—people are more receptive to giving jobs to those who are more eager to help an individual or group than those who are just interested in what they can get out of an experience.
Thank you for the great advice, Angela!
Visit Info Portal each week in November for more interviews with your fellow iSchoolers!