29

August

2011

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Around the Libraries in 180 Days (Give or Take): An Intern Recaps Her Libraries Experience

by Kirsten van der Veen

It’s hard to believe that my time at the Libraries has come to an end! Since there was a post about me here when I began my internship back in January, I thought I’d give a summary of what I’ve done since then.

I worked with Doug Dunlop through January, all of February, and the first week or so of March. For this assignment, Doug and I traveled to almost every branch in the Libraries, searching for images and information that may prove useful in the development of the Smithsonian Books proposal he’s working on, tentatively titled The Time-Traveler's Guide to the 19th Century. We spent hours looking for late 18th through early 20th century images with a “steampunk” feel that could illustrate the fictitious text about a time traveler’s encounters with James Smithson. This proved more challenging than it sounds, considering that steampunk is a very recent invention that relies on anachronistic technologies. Although we came across many images that we found hard to believe existed, Jules Verne and the World's Fairs tended to appear the most in our selections.

 Cover of Jules Verne, the World's Greatest Prophet
 
View of the Exhibition of Ancient and Modern Mexico
 
 In March I transferred to the Libraries’ Research Annex in Maryland to organize boxes of paperwork related to special exhibits. I created a filing system that will help employees working on exhibitions to sort out what paperwork should be kept and what should be disposed of. These files ranged from the 1970s through the present. Papers could usually be sorted into one of about 10 categories, although there were thousands of sheets to sort relating to nearly every exhibit over the past 30 years.

In April, I moved out to the Dibner Library, the Libraries' rare book collection for the history of science and technology, and began enhancing catalog entries for the Heralds of Science collection. It’s been a treat to go through that collection, searching for details that might distinguish one copy of an edition from another. While there I’ve learned about gilt-tooled spines with brown leather labels, headpieces, tailpieces, initials, and marbled endpapers and edges, though I still haven’t learned enough Latin to read some of the titles. I wrote a blog entry during my time there in which I examined Johann Prüss’s Ortus Sanitatis.

  Prüss' Ortus Santatis

I only got about halfway through the collection before moving to the Book Conservation Lab at the beginning of May. There I worked on the general collections with Phu Pham, doing paper repair, mixing wheat paste, sizing and folding boxes, creating enclosures, and shipping books out after work was completed.

I worked in the Book Conservation Lab until mid-June, when I returned to Dibner to finish work on the Heralds catalog entries. Once I completed that project, I worked on various other projects such as editing desiderata lists and cleaning recent acquisitions for my last couple of weeks at the Smithsonian. My final assignment was to go through dealer catalogues with collection growth and management in mind.

It’s been a busy few months, but I’ve learned many skills here that will help me as I enter library school at the University of North Carolina next month and continue on my career path.

—Betsy Hagerty, Smithsonian Libraries intern

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