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Syracuse University Library Science student Abby Houston is interning at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati, OH.

My Internship at CMC: The Challenges of Gaining Intellectual Control

I have now completed a couple of weeks at my Cincinnati Museum Center internship. I was given a lot of information and have attended a few meetings and touched a number of photographs.

Working directly with the Audio Visual Curator, I’m getting to see all the different facets that make up his job that are outside of my main project. I am thrilled to be able to witness and help with the various tasks he does on a daily basis, such as condition reports and research for acquisitions.

Gaining Control of the General Photo Collection

My primary project is to help regain intellectual control over the general photograph collection by reprocessing it to a certain degree.

This collection is commonly used by reference staff and researchers because of its wide array of subjects, all of which pertain to Cincinnati. It can be a great reference point for researchers at any point in the research process. The collection contains photographs of Cincinnati’s Garden Club to the ferries used for the bicentennial.

The Challenges

Over time, photocopies of photographs in this collection and others have been slowly added to the folders. As part of my project, I am going folder by folder with the Audio Visual Curator to separate the photocopies from the photographic originals. This part relies on my ability to recognize an original from a photocopy, which can sometimes be difficult when the copy has been printed on photo paper.

The goal of this is to obtain control of the collection and create a photocopy of each original that does not already have one. We also have to keep an eye out for photos we may have already seen while going through the folder(s) because duplicates do not need to be photocopied either. This project will ultimately end with two collections of the same material- the photocopies and the originals.

Abby handles photos from the Cincinnati Museum Center's collection.
Abby handles photos from the Cincinnati Museum Center’s collection.

While I have only just begun working on this project, I have already faced a few challenges with it. For one, I have been hesitant about my ability to recognize photographic originals from the photocopies at times. Secondly, I look at numerous images a day. Recognizing duplicates that have been separated from each other can be difficult. Lastly, my familiarity with Cincinnati is low. This can be an issue when I have to determine whether or not an image of the 1937 flood should be in the general 1937 flood photos or one of the more specific folders dedicated to a particular neighborhood.

Asking Questions

These challenges I’m facing aren’t that concerning once I realized I just have to ask questions. We’ve all heard the saying that there’s no such thing as a stupid question a million times throughout our education and careers. I’m finding more and more just how true that is. I bring a lot of experience and skills to this internship, but my supervisor is also there for me to learn from.

I am so excited to keep tackling each challenge that arises so that CMC will gain that intellectual control over their general photograph collections and continue serving researchers for years and years to come.

Abby Houston

Abby Houston

Abby is entering her third year as an LIS student at the iSchool and an Art History MA student at the College of Arts and Sciences. Throughout her first two years, she worked at the Special Collections Research Center and the Learning Commons in Bird Library and now primarily serves as a teaching assistant for HOA 105 and 106. In her spare time, Abby enjoys being in the sun and spending time with her two cats.

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