Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Staunton, VA

Hi Im Erin Carpenter! Im a senior Public History Major and Art History Minor at James Madison University. I will be interning at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, VA in Spring 2018. I will post about projects I am completing and the rewards and challenges working at the library.

Week 1 (January 16th and 18th)

I was extremely excited to start working at the library. On my first day, I met Mark, the head archivist, at the Library and Research Center located behind the museum. He explained to me how archives work, specifically how archives use finding aids like Libraries use catalogs. I then began working on digitizing and cataloging images into an excel spreadsheet, to aid in the creation of the finding aids. I had to examine each picture to find out the title of the image, who created the image, the date the image was created, the source it came from and the donor of the source. I then had to convert the size of the image from inches to millimeters due to the use of the metric system in archival work. I also had to categorize each picture according to the Library of Congress Subject Guides, so if someone wanted to do further research they could do so easily. I then categorized each picture according to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library website subject guides to aid in research. At first it took me a long time to go through each picture, but the more I did the easier it became. I began to develop a system where I would copy the URL link, look at the title, find the date, describe the picture, convert the size and then research on the subject guides to find a subject that was fitting. It was tedious and challenging, but I managed to develop an effective way of cataloging.

Week 2 (January 23rd and 25th)

I continued creating finding aids for the the Library and Research center website. I examined more pictures and put the information into an excel spreadsheet. I became a lot more comfortable creating the finding aids and was able to go through the pictures a lot quicker, while remaining efficient. I also began going through the oversized pictures located on the first floor of the Research center. I had to go through each drawer and pull out the pictures that were not assigned a catalogue number, as most of the pictures were not catalogued. I then brought the pictures upstairs and began scanning the pictures, that would fit on the standard copier, onto a flash drive. I really enjoyed going through the oversize pictures. I got excited being able to look at Maps from the 1870s and original newspapers from the early twentieth century. It was a lot of fun being able to look at and read primary source documents.

Week 3 (January 30th and February 1st) 

I continued working on cataloging the oversized images. All the images I scanned were put into a public drive on the computer. I then took the images, in PDF format, and uploaded them into Photoshop. I then cropped each image, retouched it if possible and then saved it as a JPG under the new catalogue name. I really enjoyed this process as I was able use my photoshop skills to my advantage. I liked being able to enhance the quality of the photo and make sure it looked its best for the digital archive. Once I finished doing this for each picture, I then started to create an excel spread sheet where I recorded all the information about the picture that I could. Like the other finding aids, I recorded the title, who created the image, the size, the date it was created and any other relevant information about the picture. This will be extremely helpful when adding to the digital archive.

Week 4 (February 6th and 8th) 

I continued to work on the excel spread sheet for the oversize pictures. When I finished recording all the information about the pictures, I looked at the subject guides on the Library of Congress website. I then went through each picture and researched what subject guide would be fitting for the picture. I then looked at the subject guides on the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Website and tried to find a subject guide similar to the Library of Congress. Doing this allows for consistency for scholars and the general public when doing research. This again took a lot of time but will be very beneficial. So far, I am enjoying my time working at the Library. I’m enjoying going through all the pictures and imagining what it would be like to live during Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency and am learning valuable information about his life.

Week 5 (February 15th)

I worked on photographing the panorama oversized pictures. This was something I’ve never done before, but it was really exciting to play around with both the camera and photoshop to create a cohesive picture. This process took a lot of experimenting. At first I tried taking pictures from far back to get the whole picture in the camera frame. But, this distorted the quality of the photograph. So, I found that taking small shots of the picture up close was best. I then uploaded each of the individual pictures into photoshop and researched how to combine the images into one picture. I eventually was able to figure it out and did this process for each of the panorama pictures in the collection. After combining each of the images, I edited out any imperfections on the picture and for some I had to retake the images because the frame did not line up right. Overall, It was fun to use both my photography and photoshop skills to add to the collection.

Week 6 (February 20th, 21st and 22nd)

On Tuesday, I started to enter the finished panorama pictures into an excel spreadsheet. I did the same process for the panorama pictures as I did for the oversize. I looked for the title, who created the image, the size, the date it was created and any other relevant information about the picture. After this, I started to bring down the oversize pictures to the archival storage room on the first floor and started to organize them according to catalogue number. I also assigned some of the oversize pictures catalogue numbers if they did not have one. On Wednesday, I continued to organize the oversize in the storage room on the first floor. There were a lot of pictures, so I had to strategically place them according to their size. The smaller oversize went in the first drawer, while the larger ones went in the second drawer. I also started to upload each of the oversize images onto Omeka, the developing site for the Woodrow Wilson Library and Museum Website. On Thursday, I continued working with the uploaded images onto Omeka. For each picture I had to find the stable URL associated with its specific catalogue number. I then had to copy and paste this URL into the excel spreadsheet to allow for an easy upload onto the website. I also finished photoshopping all the panorama pictures and uploaded them to Omeka.

Week 7 (February 27th and March 1st)

I continued working on uploading the URL’s from Omeka into the excel spreadsheet and began working on other photograph collections. On Tuesday, I worked with the excel spreadsheet. After completing this for the oversize pictures, I did the same for each of the panorama pictures. I also had to go down to the first floor archival storage and measure some of the panorama and larger oversize to put into the excel spreadsheet. On Thursday, I began working on digitizing other collections, including the Gary T. Grayson Collection and the Poster Collection. I again did the same process, taking pictures, photoshopping, recording information into excel and uploading the images to Omeka.

Week 8 (March 13th and 15th)

This week, I began working on the oversize Poster Collection. Like the other collections, I did the same process and entered the information of each of the posters into an excel spreadsheet. This took up all of Tuesday and I finished it up on Thursday. I also brought all of the other collections down to the first floor archival storage and organized them according to their collection number. After repeating my process with the oversize pictures and fully understanding how to digitize archival photograph collections, Mark gave me a new assignment to complete. He wanted me to complete a research guide for the Library and Museum website to aid scholars and other students looking to do research on the life and times of Woodrow Wilson. Due to my experience and passion for twentieth century topics, Mark felt it would be a perfect fit to research soldiers experiences during World War I. So on Thursday afternoon, I began researching articles and gathering background research to aid in starting the research guide.

Week 9 (March 20th and 22nd)

I continued doing research and started writing my research guide. I found many helpful articles and even found first hand account letters of individual soldier experiences. I found that the experience of many of these soldiers depended on their background, their social class and the role that they played in the war. Some men found glory in fighting, while others suffered traumatic events and saw no rewards. After discovering this, I decided to break the research guide up according to the average soldier experience, the experiences of African American soldiers, as well as the experiences of Women both on the front and at home. By the end of Thursday, I had finished the section of the average soldier and began doing research on African American experiences in the war.

Week 10 (March 27th and 29th)

This week Mark was not at the Library, so I completed my hours at home. I continued working on my research guide for the website. I continued gathering research about African American experiences and started to write this section of the guide. I again found helpful articles on both the JMU Library Website and other various databases. It was extremely interesting to learn about this perspective, as I feel like the experience of African American Soldiers in World War I is not always talked about when discussing and learning about the Great War. By doing individual research, I was able to learn a lot and educated myself on this topic. It made me very excited to research the role of Women in the war, as I also feel like this perspective is not always taught and discussed.

Week 11 (April 3rd and 5th)

I started working on the Women’s section of the research guide. This was also a fun perspective to research, as I did not think Women were as involved in the first world war as they were. Through researching and writing this section, I learned that Women became a vital part of the war upon shortage of soldiers. Women took over clerical jobs held by men so that they could become soldiers. Since more than a third of clerical jobs in the United States were held by Women, they became an asset overseas. These Women became America’s first female soldiers as their job was to send messages and run telephone lines to aid in an Allied victory. I also learned that Women helped soldiers on the home front by gathering supplies and establishing hostess houses on military base camps to house family and friends of soldiers. I really enjoyed doing the research for this topic and creating a guide that can aid in public research.

Week 12 (April 10th) 

Mark thought it would be helpful if I create a guide to help guide research for students and the general public. I started my guide leading the visitor’s through the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Website. I used an example of Woodrow Wilson and his stance on education as a potential research topic. I then guided the visitor to the digital items in the Archive Collection and ways to find relevant and helpful sources. Next, I gave the visitor places to look next after our website such as University Library Catalogues, like James Madison University, as well as databases like America: History and Life and World Cat that would be relevant to research on Woodrow Wilson. I feel like this process allowed me to analyze my own research methods and the specific process that has aided in my success throughout my college career. I enjoyed being able to give advice to the public about ways to get the most out of your research.

Week 13 (April 17th, 18th and 19th)

This week, I completed various archival projects and took a break from creating research guides and placed accession numbers on collections, specifically the WWI Soldier Photo Collection. I went through each folder and gave each Photo the collection number, as well as individual item numbers. I then created an excel spreadsheet of every folder in the collection and every identifiable soldier in each of the pictures. This took up most of Tuesday and Thursday. On Thursday, I went through the Yount Collection and scanned each page of the scrapbook that is in the collection. This was very tedious and time consuming but will be helpful when it comes time to upload these pictures onto the website.

Week 14 (April 24th and 26th)

My last week at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library was bittersweet. This week, I continued working on the Yount Collection and made a list of all the individual pictures in the scrapbook and the additional folders and items in the collection. Overall, this internship has been a great experience. I have learned a lot about archival work and the detail that goes into preserving documents and photographs. I really enjoyed being able to work hands on with material and handle items that are over one hundred years old. I also enjoyed being able to do individual research and create research guides that will be helpful for anyone who visits the Woodrow Wilson Library Website. I look forward to applying the skills I have learned here, at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, into internships and job opportunities I will have in the future.