What I Uncovered: Marcus Baldwin's Internship at PHS
August 7, 2019
From January to August, I have been involved as an archival intern at P.H.S., or the Presbyterian Historical Society, in downtown Philadelphia. I came to know this institution because of research from Professor Joel Tannenbaum’s history class at the Community College of Philadelphia, where I graduated in early May 2019. I have been introduced to numerous projects throughout the course of my time here at P.H.S., including processing the American Presbyterian Congo Mission (A.P.C.M.) records, video production, and interacting with staff. I have learned concepts that proved to be essential within the field of archives.
The very core of my time here at P.H.S. has lied within working on organizing a collection. The collection was based on Presbyterian missionaries' interactions with the Congolese populous, as they attempted to implement their gospel into Congolese society. As for the physical description of the collection, it consisted of many documents that were hand-written, type-written, as well as many photos. Jennifer Barr, who is a technical services and reference archivist at P.H.S., served as the anchor point in me becoming more acquainted with the project, as well as with the dynamics of archives as a whole. Even though the entire A.P.C.M. collection is far from complete, the Congo portion served as a great opportunity for me to spend time within an archival environment.
The Congolese project was a challenging, yet fun assignment to work on. What further increased my capabilities was the freedom to work on side projects as well. The first thing that came to mind was creating something that held a virtual presence to it. From there, I came up with the idea of making a documentary about P.H.S., mostly because I felt that there is much knowledge about archives that most people are unaware of. It was a really cool and creative project to focus on. There was a lot of footage to capture, but it ended up looking awesome. This would not have been possible without the help of Kristen Gaydos, who serves as P.H.S.’s Development & Communications Assistant. Kristen was the backbone behind the whole project, as she helped me in putting the pieces together. She probably had a million things to do, but was still able to introduce me to the editing software that organized the footage. Also, she taught me to use P.H.S.’s new D.S.L.R. camera. Had it not been for her, the documentary would have been in complete shambles. Thank you so much, Kristen!!!! One other technology I had a chance to work with was audio transcription software, which Records Archivist David Staniunas taught me.
The various interactions that I have had with staff introduced me to many things. For instance, I would have never met the people I have come to know. From being around staff/faculty, I have learned of many concentrations, backgrounds, motives, and influences. Also, how they all combined to lead them to where they are today. Throughout my time at P.H.S., I have come to realize that an archive is very multi-faceted. For example, I have come across people in finance, marketing, technology, public relations/outreach, and social media. I feel that I have made many everlasting connections that will prove to be valuable in upcoming years.
My experience at P.H.S. involved many take-aways for me to consider. The three big take-always I had were concentration, work-ethic, and areas of improvement. With concentration, P.H.S. introduced me to archives and other disciplines. So, it really expanded my horizons of what other occupations existed besides archive-based positions. With work-ethic, my determination remains stronger than ever. Even though some aspects of archives were challenging to grasp, the work made the experience worth it. One area I would like to improve is my E.A.D., or Encoded Archival Description, knowledge. E.A.D. is the standard structural diagram of how coding is organized for a collection. It can also be translated into M.A.R.C. (Machine Readable Cataloging Records), and interpreted as XML (Extensible Markup Language). I know that if I put my mind to it, I will be able to operate it effectively.
Nonetheless, these last couple of months could not have been better spent. With these experiences at P.H.S., I will be sure to carry them over to more internships and, ultimately, put what I have learned to use in my future career as a professional archivist/librarian.
Marcus Baldwin is a recent graduate of the Community College of Philadelphia, and will be attending Temple University in August of 2019. He is looking forward to studying Africology, the study of the entire African Diaspora. He is also a fanatic of comics and video games. His work is a part of the Building Knowledge & Breaking Barriers project.