Learning in the Archives: An Intern’s Experience

One of the most rewarding aspects of working in Special Collections & Archives is the opportunity to host student learning experiences. We work with undergrads and grads who are students from UB and area colleges on a variety of projects—internships, fieldwork experiences, volunteer opportunities, and student assistant positions. This summer, we had the opportunity to work with Samuel Shear, an undergraduate history major at the University of Baltimore, an active member of the campus history club, and a local history enthusiast.

Sam focused his summer internship on the League of Women Voters for Baltimore City Records, an archival collection related to 20th century local politics, which is described in our online database here. Part of this project involved organizing and describing folders in the collection, and recording that information in electronic format. Sam’s interest in the material compelled him to do more than just catalog folder titles, however. He also began identifying themes and records of historic significance, keeping detailed notes about these materials in the collection. Says Shear, “Writing down the historical significance of each file in my notebook and then typing it up was a good way to learn.”

Reflecting on the project, Sam explains his work in greater detail, providing examples of what he learned. “As I entered more files into the [archives] database, I learned about all the issues that the League of Women Voters focused on and that these issues dominated not only the Baltimore chapter, but the national chapter as well.” Among the national topics Sam identified were voting, education, pollution, welfare, and Civil Rights.

Additional local matters included bond issues, charter amendments, and concerns over the maintenance of public schools. “I learned that Baltimore originally could not put bond issues on the ballot without approval from the Maryland General Assembly. Additionally, I learned that in 1984, there was a proposed charter amendment that called for the districts in Baltimore City to go from three council members to just one. In learning about the proposed charter amendment calling for the districts in Baltimore City to go from three council members to just one, I found out that the Baltimore chapter of the League of Women Voters played a role in that charter amendment being rejected.”

The library and the staff of Special Collections & Archives thank Sam for his dedication to this summer project! We’ll be updating our online public database with his collection inventory. His notes on records of historic significance will be kept with the archival collection, as a guide for future students and researchers.

About Aiden Faust

Aiden manages the University of Baltimore's Special Collections and Archives.

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