MU Archives week 5

Sara Shields

This week, Maureen has introduced me to Omeka, an online system used for digital collections and exhibits. The university archives uses Omeka to host their current and past digital exhibits. It’s very user friendly! Currently, I’m getting used to using it and the features that it offers. I will be using Omeka for the exhibit that I’m curating on Sister Miriam Gallagher, RSM. It will be a small, but descriptive, exhibit on her and her life, along with her legacy at Misericordia, and her impact on the university.

I’m happy that I’m learning more about digital collections and gaining experience with them because it’s becoming more and more important to know how to work with them. I feel that with my past internship, previous courses I’ve taken, and my current internship with the university archives, I’m learning so much that will equip me with the necessary skills that I’ll need after I graduate!


MU Archives Week 4

Sara Shields

Lately I have been working on the Sisters of Mercy project that I previously mentioned in my last post. This has been very interesting to work on because prior to this project, I was fairly unfamiliar with the Sisters of Mercy and their lasting impacts on the university. This week I have been writing biographies for seven Sisters of Mercy that influenced Misericordia. They include: Sister Annunciata Merrick, Sister Catherine McGann, Sister Marianna Gildea, Sister Eulalia Herron, Sister Celestine McHale, Sister Mary Glennon, and Sister Miriam Gallagher. Along with writing biographies on them, I have been compiling metadata on the pictures and objects in the archives that will be used for the institutional repository.

I have also started considering the topic of an exhibit that I will be curating on the Sisters of Mercy. It will be a small online exhibit using sources from the MU Archives. I am excited to be curating another exhibit after finishing one last semester. Along with this exhibit on the Sisters of Mercy, I will also be curating another for HIS 492: History in the Professions Thesis, a class I am taking this semester. I am happy to be gaining this much experience!

MU Archives Week 3

Sara Shields

Lately I’ve been transcribing oral histories for the Center of Nursing History of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Listening to these stories has been incredibly interesting and enlightening. I finished editing and transcribing an oral history from 2016, and I am almost done with one from 2017 which includes two women who graduated from Misericordia in the 1950s.

While listening to these oral histories, I’ve started to feel like I was with with the interview participants hearing their stories. They provide such great detail and emotion, so you really start to feel a connection to their stories. I’ve also learned more about how the field of nursing has evolved since the 50s, so it’s really interesting to hear their perspectives.

Once I am done with the oral history from 2017, I will be starting on a project about the Sisters of Mercy at Misericordia; their lives, legacy, and the lasting impact they had on the university. I will be writing biographies for them by pulling information from sources that are currently in the archives. I am excited to start on this project to learn more about the Sisters of Mercy and their role in shaping the university to what it is today.

MU Archives Week 2

Sara Shields

This week has been very interesting! I started transcribing oral histories for the Center for Nursing History of Northeastern Pennsylvania. I’m not very familiar with the field of nursing, but it’s interesting to listen to these interviews and hear about the history of the field and experiences from former nurses.

Transcribing oral histories are important for accessibility. For example, transcription makes oral histories available to those in your audience who may be hard of hearing and/or unable to hear. Accessibility plays a huge role in public history because you want to be able to get as much of your material to your audience as possible. This is also why metadata and finding aids are important; it allows materials to be easily accessible for your audience.

The oral histories that I have been working on this week include retired nurses reflecting on their time at Misericordia, the field of nursing itself, and how it’s changed. I think that their stories are incredible and very interesting to listen to. After going through photos from the collection last week, their stories provide a lot of context, especially to someone like me who is not very familiar with the field.

Along with the oral histories, Maureen has been giving me tips on how to read job listings, things to consider when looking at graduate schools, etc. These tips are incredibly helpful, seeing as though these things can come off as daunting when you first start looking for jobs and graduate programs.

MU Archives Week 1

Sara Shields

This semester I am interning with the Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives here at Misericordia. I’m very excited to learn more about archives and gain experience on what exactly archivists do. This week we’ve started off with some readings on memory, and the symbolic significance of archives. This material is familiar to me after taking HIS 341: Introduction to Public History last semester. I recognize a lot of the terms and definitions, so having taken HIS 341 last semester is really helpful. In addition to those readings, I have also been learning about finding aids, arrangement, and description. The readings that I have been assigned are very helpful and explain these terms in a practical manner. Description and arrangement are important because first, you must determine and explain the context and content of your material, and then arrange it in a way that exhibits a pattern among the material. The purpose of arrangement and description is to promote access to your materials. Finding aids are also important in this process, as they help your audience find information and material.

I have also been creating posts for The Center for Nursing History of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Facebook page. The University Archives holds this collection to collect and provide access to the history of the nursing profession in Northeastern PA. It’s been very interesting to go through the collection and have the opportunity to ask the members of the Facebook page questions about the photographs. I am very excited to hear their answers to my questions! Social media is a good way to reach your audience and engage with them, especially in a time like this.

Overall, this week has been great and I’m excited to experience and learn more about archives!

HIS 440: Public History Practicum Reflection

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to create my own exhibit this semester in HIS 440. While it seemed daunting at first and difficult at times, I am very happy with how this course went and how the exhibit turned out overall. It was also great to learn about what goes into creating an exhibit, and I think that taking HIS 341: Introduction to Public History at the same time was really beneficial.

The readings and course materials used at the beginning of the semester were definitely helpful in building a foundation for the exhibit. Prior to this class and HIS 341, I had never learned about the field of public history in any of my other history courses. I never realized how much thought has to go into creating an exhibit prior to this semester, so the readings from the textbook, as well as the case studies, really helped me understand the process.

Sara Shields

After the introductory readings it was time to get started on the research and writing part of the course. At first, I had no clue what I wanted the topic of the exhibit to be. Knowing that it could be almost anything I wanted, the possibilities were endless. After choosing my topic, I got started on the research. This definitely seemed difficult at first, but once I familiarized myself with my secondary and primary sources, it was really enjoyable. The order in which assignments were due couldn’t have been better. Starting with the annotated bibliography, I used each assignment from the previous week to help me in the next one. By the end of the course, all of my research was laid out in front of me and all I had to do was piece it together for the final exhibit. This helped me realize that when you have a difficult task, you just need to trust the process. When I saw all of the assignments on the syllabus, I thought they would be impossible to complete. However, each assignment I completed made the next one easier.

I thought that every component of the class was great. Even though this semester was different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it didn’t have much of an effect on this course. We met weekly over Zoom and Dr. Black gave me feedback on all of my assignments very quickly. The feedback I received was extremely helpful and made me think more about the decisions I was making for the exhibit. The only thing that may have gone different if we weren’t currently going through a pandemic was that the exhibit probably would have been in-person and not digital. However, I think that the exhibit still turned out great despite it being digital. Many museums and institutions are doing online tours and exhibits right now because of COVID-19, so I think that it was important to learn about how museums are adapting to this difficult time.

Overall, this course has probably been one of my favorites. It gave me hands-on experience and equipped me with skills that I will need in my future career. As I said previously, taking this class concurrently with HIS 341: Introduction to Public History was very beneficial because each week in HIS 341, I learned new information that was helpful in creating my exhibit. I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in or wants to know more about the field of public history.

Final Week at AHM

Volunteering at this Anthracite Heritage Museum this semester has been a great experience. While it was different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I still had the opportunity to learn a lot of useful information that will benefit me in my future career. I am a senior History Major with a specialization in Public History at Misericordia University, and volunteering at AHM helped me learn about what goes on in a museum that visitors don’t see. 

    Throughout the semester, I did a lot of work on the Argus database. It was very interesting to learn about the process of cataloguing new objects and artifacts. I also really enjoyed learning about the accession and deaccessioning process. While volunteering with AHM, I was also taking an introductory course on public history. For a lot of the material we discussed in class, I experienced it first hand at the museum. This was very beneficial for me, because I was learning about it in class and getting hands-on experience at the same time. 

    One of the tasks I had while volunteering with AHM was reading through answers to a questionnaire that was sent out by the Lackawanna County Historical Society concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and how county residents have been affected. I read through the responses and determined keywords that came up often. I really enjoyed this because it is important to document and record exactly what we are experiencing this year. Future students, researchers, and historians will look back and wonder what we struggled with, how we adapted, and how we felt during the year 2020. By documenting the public’s responses, this will help those in the future understand our lives and what we went through this year. 

    Overall, volunteering at AHM was a great experience. I am grateful that I got the opportunity to do it and learn valuable information that will help me after I graduate. 

Weekly Update

This week has been slower than the past few because it was Thanksgiving. However, I still got in plenty of hours and thankfully the mix up at the beginning of the semester won’t effect my hours anymore. I’m on track to finish this semester with 135 volunteer hours at the Anthracite Heritage Museum.

I’ve been cataloguing some objects into Argus this week. One collection was a framed lithograph, a photograph, a brass plaque, and then an insurance map. These were all from the Sauquoit Silk Plant in Scranton, PA. When entering these objects into Argus, I first give them an object number. Once they are assigned an object number, I give the object a general description, take note of the condition, then indicate who donated it, and where the object currently is. Giving a description and/or dimensions of objects can sometimes be difficult because I only have pictures to reference. This semester has definitely been different in terms of how we learn and work, but I’m happy to have had the opportunity to volunteer at AHM this semester. Next week is my last week and I will miss the exposure to so many interesting things!

Weekly Update

This week I have been continuing finding keywords among COVID-19 stories from Lackawanna County residents, and I am almost finished with the adult portion of the questionnaires. In addition to the COVID-19 stories, I have also been putting in web descriptions for a large collection at Eckley Miners Village in the Argus database.

In my meeting with John this week we discussed the process that the museum goes through when they receive object donations. When someone wants to donate an object, the museum must decide if it is worth putting in the collection. They must consider if it aligns with their mission statement, if that object would be unique or if they have others that are similar to it, etc. If the museum wants the object, there is a system of checks and balances that the museum must go through. Once this process is completed and the object is approved, the object is assigned an accession number and is entered into the collection.

We also discussed what deaccessioning an artifact is like. Deaccessioning occurs when there is either too many of the same object, if the object poses a threat towards humans, if the object is deteriorating past the point of conservation efforts, or if it is decided that the object no longer aligns with the institution’s mission statement. If the institution decides to deaccession an object, they must contact the donor and let them know, because the museum agreed to care for the object once it was in their possession. Deaccessioning could either lead to the museum donating it to another institution, or, if the object is in bad condition and it is no longer recognizable or functional, it must be destroyed and disposed of. I thought that it was interesting that it needs to be destroyed before being disposed of, but it is to prevent somebody from finding the object and trying to resell it or keep it for personal use.

This semester has gone by so fast but I am very happy that I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with AHM. I have definitely learned many new things. I still have a couple weeks left with them, so I’m excited to see what else there is to learn!


Weekly Update

For the past week I have been continuing to work on the COVID-19 stories from Lackawanna county. As I mentioned in my last post, this project reminds me a lot of the current project that our public history class has been working on this semester.

For this project, we are looking for community members to contribute to the collection on COVID-19. Contributions such as stories, photos, videos, social media posts, newspaper articles, artwork, and digital/physical objects. These contributions will be put into a collection in the Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle University Archives at Misericordia to document the time that we are living in right now.

As I’ve said in previous posts, it is very important to be documenting our lives at this time. 100 years from now, people will be studying 2020 and will wonder exactly what we did during the pandemic. Did we spend more time with our families? Take up new hobbies? Learn something new? These are the kind of things to consider if you would like to make a contribution.

Personally, once everything shut down in March, I tried learning multiple new hobbies like knitting, sewing, and hand-stitched embroidery. I also took that time to read some new books that I had bought but never had the time to read. While these small events may seem trivial to us now, they will be important to know for those in the future. If you would like to contribute to this collection, go to for more information!