Life on the ‘Other Side’
By Logan Knight, Special Collections and Library Summer Intern
After breaking my leg last Labor Day weekend, I had a lot of time to do some thinking. The most important thing I accomplished (besides catching up on Netflix) was deciding to make a real commitment to following my passion: history.
KHS was gracious enough to give me an opportunity to do just that.
As an intern in the Special Collections and Library division at KHS, I observed a wide variety of tasks that I had never experienced as a student. Sure, I had been in an archive before, but it’s a whole different animal when you’re on the other side. Working behind the reference desk, retrieving materials, helping volunteers, listening to fellows’ presentations gives one a wealth of knowledge and practical experience that you don’t get unless you actually do it yourself.
Let me also say that I have worked at internships before, but my time here at KHS has been the best. Why? Because the staff are truly committed to doing whatever they can to make this experience worth all of your time and effort.
You are not here to fetch coffee or fax memos. You are here to acquire real, working knowledge that is invaluable in the history field. You will learn exactly what an archivist or a librarian or a collections specialist does because you will be doing it.
If you are passionate, the staff here will move the Earth to help you. I wanted to get as much experience as possible so they let me intern for a day in a different department. I wanted to go to a local history conference on one of my days off; they arranged for me to go for free and to ride with staff members both to and from.
You can’t buy help like that.
While here, I focused on two major projects: the Wolff, Gretter, Cusick Studio Negatives and the Ronald Morgan Postcard Collection.
The Wolff, Gretter, Cusick Studio collection came to KHS from a defunct photography studio that documented Frankfort from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century. I was asked to look specifically at the photos of various Kentucky legislators and figure out just who they were.
Think of it as getting to solve small mysteries all day long. All you have to go off of is a squiggly line that could be cursive. You then head to the library and start tracking down the name. It may seem goofy, but it’s always a thrill whenever you’ve finally discovered the person’s name and background.
I then took some of the more interesting lives and wrote short blogs (coming soon to our website! catch it!) about their lives. They run the gamut from heartbreaking stories of representatives losing their families in a flood to laughing out loud at tales of a young representative stealing an elephant from a circus.
The Ronald Morgan Kentucky Postcard Collection was a private collection of postcards that recently came to KHS. These postcards are from the early part of the 20th century and show scenes from around the state. I was asked to transfer the collection list to a series of Word documents. I got to spend hours going through the collection and, trust me, these need to be seen to be believed. One has even been turned into a very popular t-shirt (see our gift shop!).
If you’re a resident of Kentucky, check out photos of your home county from a hundred years ago (several of these are available online at www.kyhistory.com). Plus, you can get a rare view of people’s lives at the time from reading the back. Things may have changed a lot since those days, but there remains a core of the human experience that reaches across the
In conclusion, I don’t think I can choose a single moment that I would call my greatest experience here at KHS. I find myself with an embarrassment of riches: going through the postcards; interacting with the public; investigating the legislators’ identities; working in collections; attending the KMHA conference at Morehead State University; working alongside some of the most talented archivists, librarians, collections specialists, fellow interns and all-around-great human beings I’ve ever encountered. How do you choose from that?
So I have to cop-out and just choose the whole experience. What I have acquired here cannot be measured in money. I have acquired experiences, knowledge and friends that I will treasure for a lifetime.
I can only hope that the readers of this blog will take the time to come and absorb even a bit of the magic that I have felt here at the Kentucky Historical Society.