Friday, March 26, 2010

My Internship Experience at the Amistad Research Center

My name is Nika and I’m a graduate student in Museum Studies at Southern University at New Orleans. For the past seven months, I have worked as an intern here at the Amistad Research Center in the processing department. When I first started interning here, I spent most of my time writing biographical notes and inputting data into Archon, the searchable archival database. I found it to be interesting because I would get the chance to research a historical figure or organization.

One of the first collections I entered was the Frank Smith Horne papers. I’d never heard of him until I started at the Amistad Research Center. Horne was an optometrist, poet, writer, college administrator, and government official. It amazed me at how much this man accomplished in his life. Who would have ever thought that an optometrist could become a government official? I would attribute this career change to the times. During the early 20th century, there was a move to end discrimination against minorities in the United States. This would have been one of the primary reasons for Horne to make a shift toward working with the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing and other federal agencies that contributed to the fight against discrimination.

Most recently, I was asked to arrange the newspaper clippings from the James Egert Allen Papers. At first glance, this task seemed like it would take a day or two of work. But, the day or two turned into taking two weeks! First, I organized the clippings chronologically. Then, I photocopied each article onto acid free paper.

Even though care was taken to preserve the original newspaper clippings, due to the fragile nature of the acid newspaper, several miniscule pieces of disintegrated newspaper clippings were everywhere. The picture below is an understatement. Preservation of the text of the newspaper clippings was exactly why I was transferring the clippings to acid-free paper.

While sorting the clippings, I realized that they play a major role in figuring out the context of the times. Besides the focus of the clippings on specific events, I was interested in the adjacent articles. These clippings can be used to give a picture of the culture and fashion of the era in which they were produced. Below are clippings from the “Week’s Top Tunes” of January 14, 1961 from the Courier and another article from Afro American Magazine about twelve Spelman students listed in the Who’s Who among Students in American Universities and Colleges for 1966.

I think that the most thought provoking clippings were articles by J.A. Rogers. James Egert Allen collected the “Your History” clippings from The Pittsburgh Courier.

I came across Rogers’ editorials several times. They captivated me because of the arrangement. Each article had an illustration of the subject Rogers was writing about. I thought that it was an ingenious way of presenting historical information about Black history. I felt enlightened, but unsettled. I wanted to know more about Rogers. I wanted to know more about his background and how he developed his passion for African American history. Also, I wanted to know his role in the documenting of Black history. This is going to be the start of my thesis! I owe it all to the task of photocopying the newspaper clippings. It may have been tedious, but it has become the groundwork of my research.

Posted by Nika B. Carter

(From the James Egert Allen papers, Amistad Research Center.  Images may not be reproduced without consent.)

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