An East Coast - West Coast Experience

An East Coast - West Coast Experience

Archives | 08/06/2011


As a requirement of my studies at the University of Alabama, I must complete an internship.  When looking for an opportunity, I was hopeful that I could intern in a National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility.  It is very difficult to receive an internship with NARA so I applied to a competitive non-profit program, which serves as a liaison between students and federal bureaus.   Through the program, I have enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime this summer. 

Early this summer, I flew from Atlanta to Washington, DC for a week of training and orientation.  The experience was wonderful! Through various sessions we were introduced to aspects of the federal government and given opportunities to meet with officials from the bureaus with whom we would be working.  Not only were we able to make new contacts but we made new friends within our fields.  We were also given ample time to tour Washington, DC.   Quickly, however, the time in Washington, DC came to an end and I flew from the east coast to Seattle, Washington.

Here in Seattle, I have served as an intern to the NARA Pacific Northwest Regional Facility.   The National Archives and Records Administration typically conjures thoughts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.  However, the National Archives is so much more than the “Charters of Freedom.”   There are 13 NARA facilities all over the country.  Depending on the facility and region, NARA’s holdings vary greatly. The records include such items as  Troup County Archives holds like paper documents, microfilm and photographs but in much greater quantities.    

As one can imagine, a facility that holds such a vast amount of documents requires a great deal of document processing.  Document processing and life cycle have been my primary tasks this summer.   I have worked with the documents of Custer National Forest, Mount Hood National Forest, Willamette National Forest and Portland Civil Works Authority.  I have completed the entire life cycle of the two National Forests collections, starting with unprocessed documents and ending with neatly arranged boxes and detailed finding aids.   While these duties are not much different from my duties at Troup County Archives, I have acquired new techniques that better enable me to work with larger, more fragile collections.   For example, the Portland Civil Works Authority is a large collection of some 2800 large (6-8 feet wide) drawings that require great care.  I have processed about 200 of these drawings so this will be a project that will span several years and multiple interns.

Not only has this summer provided a wonderful learning opportunity, but I have also been able to get a first hand glance of the Pacific Northwest culture.  Seattle is a beautiful city with great weather and warm, friendly residents.  I have also had the opportunity to tour the area.  The Oregon Coast, Pioneer Square and whale watching in the Orcas Islands have been my favorite sites.  And, as a coffee lover, I have found so much comfort in the fact that there really is a Starbucks on every corner in Seattle!

As much as I have learned and experienced over the summer, I am now growing anxious to go home.  I miss my family and friends, but most of all I am excited to put my newly learned techniques to use at Troup County Archive.



*The photograph is a view of Mount Rainier from my apartment on a sunny day.  The mountain is just so beautiful as it looms over the city of Seattle.  On the few clear, pretty days, locals greet each other by saying, “The mountain is out!”