The last few days of my internship were busy. I was wrapping up projects and making sure physical and digital assets ended up in the right hands.
The highlight was that I finished my processing project! I rehoused the last files and re-shelved the collection on my second to last day—just in the nick of time.
All of the materials also had at least a partial metadata record by the end of my internship. It wasn’t the original goal, but still a big milestone.
Throughout the process of rehousing and removing unrelated materials, duplicate materials, and materials that belonged in different collections, the collection shrank quite a bit.
What began as about 30 linear feet of documents and books ended up closer to 20 feet. It was great to see it all come together before the end of the summer.
The long term goal for the collection is to get everything digitized and available to the public. While that plan falls well beyond the scope of my summer internship, the processing work I completed will be an important step towards that outcome.
Not All Special Collections Are Alike
On the surface, the National Geographic Library and Archives is quite different than Syracuse University Library’s Special Collections Research Center.
For starters: the team, the overall collection, and the physical space are much smaller. Their primary audience is a clear cut group and the main subject areas are much more focused.
My projects at National Geographic were also very different from those I take on at the SCRC, where I spend most of my time doing research and reference work.
A Commitment to Storytelling
Looking back, my summer experience reinforced some familiar library science principles. The most striking similarity was the importance of preserving and cultivating institutional memory.
It may seem an obvious thing to do for institutions with the mission of preserving the history of an organization. But there’s something to be said for preserving the untold stories, the stories about stories, and the stories about the people who keep them.
A commitment to storytelling is one of the key components of National Geographic’s mission. I see that holding true in the larger world of libraries and archives as well.
There is always more to the story, and it’s part of our job as librarians and archivists to keep that alive.