Interns onboard for archival road trip

Today's guest blogger is Jake Coen, who has spent this summer as a PHMC Keystone Intern assigned to the Pennsylvania State Archives. A lifelong Harrisburg resident, Jake will return this fall to Providence College, in Rhode Island, where he majors in history. Thanks, Jake.

Pennsylvania State Archives Tower, Harrisburg
       On July 28, the interns at the Pennsylvania State Archives took a field trip to Carlisle to visit three other document and artifact repositories.  While the State Archives contains artifacts ranging from railroad engineering drawings to a few locks of Thomas Jefferson’s hair, the visit to Carlisle proved to be an eye-opening experience. 
      The first stop on the Carlisle trip was to the Army Heritage and Education Center.  This massive federal complex boasts a museum of American military history, a series of outdoor interactive exhibits and reconstructions, an impressive archive and artifact repository and two state-of-the-art conservation labs.  Needless to say, it was a very impressive experience!  Interns were treated to a private tour of the museum that pointed out not only the major artifacts on display and interactive experience, but also drew attention to the planning and construction of exhibits.  After a walk through the conservation labs and artifact repository, the head of the archives gave the interns a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see (and touch!) some priceless documents, including a letter written by Robert E. Lee during his retreat from Gettysburg and the transcript from the telephone room at Pearl Harbor on the day of the Japanese bombardment. 
       Across town, the Dickinson College archives and special collection opened its doors for the Keystone Interns to explore its collection of rare books, school records, historical documents of local importance and some private papers of some of the college’s most notable alumni, including President James Buchanan.  In addition, the interns enjoyed several special exhibits assembled by Dickinson College interns.  These exhibits used items from the special collection, notably a selection of artifacts and oddities collected from around the world by Dickinson alumni, and an impressive collection of tools used by Joseph Priestley, the 18th-century scientist responsible for the discovery of oxygen. [Editor's note: Dr. Priestley's American home and laboratory in Northumberland is part of the Pennsylvania Trails of History.]
    The last stop was the Cumberland County Historical Society, a privately owned and operated museum, library and archive.  During a private tour around the museum and collections, the interns discussed the challenges and rewards of maintaining a private archive and museum as well as some of the technological and outreach-based programs used by the society to preserve its records and to reach a wider audience. 
      While it may seem like one museum or one archive may have it all when it comes to a certain topic or field of interest, the State Archives intern field trip to Carlisle demonstrates that this is simply not true.  Each repository and museum offers its own unique and exciting collections that are arranged and cared for in a variety of ways.  Whether holding soldiers’ journals, a collection of 16th-century books, or a variety of maps and charts of a particular region, the three archives visited by the interns presented a different set of records that, when looked at as a whole, complemented each other to form a much fuller picture than any single institution could do on its own.


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