The collections of the Misericordia Archives are a microcosm of women’s lives in the twentieth century United States. This service-learning project in the fall of 2017 enabled students to situate the rich history of campus life within broader events taking place in the United States. The entries below comprise students’ reflections on this experience.
Misericordia regularly sends our students out into the community to build their professional experience and serve others. Since 2016, MU has sent several students to internships in Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; Scranton, PA; and Eckley, PA. Read more about our students’ work in area historic sites, museums, and other related public history endeavors below.
In the summer and fall 2018, I partnered with the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, PA, to co-curate an exhibit on mining photography. My co-curators (AHM Director Bode Morin, and AHM Curator John Fielding) and I wanted to capture the ways in which photography has served to document, memorialize, and preserve Anthracite mining and mining culture, from the beginnings of the Anthracite industry in Northeast PA in the nineteenth century through today.
The resulting exhibit, Anthracite Photographers: Photographers of Anthracite, brought together the work of nine photographers who documented the Anthracite Region, including Lewis Hine, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Bernd and Hilla Becher, George M. Bretz, Watson Brunnell, William Herman Rau, George Harvan, John Horgan Jr., Scott Herring, local press photographs, and the photographers of the Federal Government’s HABS-HAER project. We examined the collective contributions of these artists and practitioners, and the ways in which their work catalyzed social action, served industrial purposes, and memorialized NEPA’s post-industrial landscape. The exhibit opened December 1, 2018, and featured a companion exhibition catalog. The exhibit is scheduled to be on-view at the Anthracite Heritage Museum through 2021.
–Jennifer M. Black, Assistant Professor of History, Misericordia University
Misericordia University History major Sarah Sporko provided crucial support throughout the duration of the project, with funding from Misericordia’s SURF program for the summer months. Sarah’s blog, reproduced below, chronicles the project’s completion through her internship in the fall of 2018. For more information on Misericordia University’s public history opportunities, visit misericordia.edu/history.
This week of my internship I was working solo on compiling averages on half of last years weekly reports. I wasn’t able to attend the weekly meeting due to a test at the same time, but they cancelled it due to a chief of staff meeting which was mandatory for the other staff. So I didn’t miss much during my exam.
Robin, who took over for David, has yet to give me any new assignments, mostly because I’m working on projects for Maria. I plan to reach out to them on Monday to discuss projects I’m involved in.
Everyone has been super busy and I am trying my hardest to help out.
As I began week 3 on Wednesday, I finally managed to complete the first box. I managed to put the disorganized documents back to their appropriate dates while recording their contents. I also managed to start the second box, completing the years 1830 and 1831. However, the next year and folder detailing 1832 have proven itself to be the largest folder so far. On Friday, Amanda taught me a new format when it comes to recording the documents. The new format is essentially “last name, first name- subject”. If I was unable to decipher the name of someone then all I had to do was this “_______- subject”. That way if I am unable to fully transcribe the contents of a document then a future reader may be able to do so. Despite this new format, I was unable to finish 1832. It must have been a very busy year for Maxwell as a good number of the documents were either to him or from him. I remembered that in the previous years Bowman mostly received letters and Maxwell probably kept them for safekeeping. Until I remembered it had been three years after Bowman had died, which means that Maxwell was now in charge. This meant he was now more involved in the writing now rather than just answering on behalf of Bowman. One letter I noticed was from someone named Thomas Williamson, and regards Maxwell as a friend. Although, I have not been able to find much information regarding Williamson besides working with Maxwell, it was nice to see a link to Bowmans’ personal and professional life. There was also a letter from Laurence and Martha Good (I am unaware regarding if the two were either married or siblings) that appointed Maxwell as a lawful attorney of petitions. I thought it was interesting to see a document that discussed Maxwell’s progression as a lawyer despite my unfamiliarities with the profession.
This week was very relaxed. I attended the weekly staff meeting and handed in the minutes on time. I was requested to be at a meeting on Wednesday to discuss a new project on going through the Social media comments for the main VA Facebook page and Twitter accounts, but the meeting was cancelled last minute and needs to be rescheduled.
I am compiling data still for my main project that is going through last years weekly reports and completing averages for the data within them. I was told to hold off on the project until we schedule a phone meeting and I get the rest of the reports. The deadline is still unknown.
I also completed a social media post exercise to see if I could create posts for the page under their guidelines. I created four different posts on different topics and submitted on time. I haven’t heard anything back as of yet, but everyone on the team was required to submit and they were looking mostly for team members so they would look at mine last.
High hopes to get everything settled for the next projects.
As I began my second week on January 29th, I made a promise to myself to complete the first box by the end of the week. On Wednesday, I managed to complete the second folder and managed to get some work done for the third folder going through the years 1820, 1821, and 1822. On Friday, I worked through most of folder three and went through the years 1823-1826. Towards the end of the day, Amanda brought up a new rule for me to follow whenever I finish for the day: I am to save a copy of what I have written in total to a flash drive so that the Historical Society has a second copy of my note-taking. However, I noticed some papers from 1822 and 1826 were not separated from their groups. In order to not lose track of these documents, I placed them in a folder that I simply titled as “Disorganized”. On Saturday, I managed to complete the third folder and the first box. The last three years that I had to move were 1827-1829. Unfortunately, the disorganized documents will have to be completed hopefully by Wednesday. That said I made a promise to complete the three folders by the end of the week, so it is not a total loss in my opinion.
One of the interesting themes revolving around Maxwell was that a lot of the documents he had were financial in context. There were some land deeds, articles of agreements, documents that involved debts from people, ledgers, and bills that I had managed to decipher as much as I could. If I were to make an assumption about what kind of law Maxwell practiced, it would be financial. He was also probably in charge of the finances involving his possible mentor and/or partner, Ebenezer Bowman. Most of the documents are directed towards Bowman, who, I read, was a lawyer at the time and was older than Maxwell, considering the former participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill. So it’s possible Maxwell dealt heavily with Bowman’s finances or those of their firm. To conclude, I managed to finish the three folders of box 1 and have theorized the career of Volney Maxwell.
During the first week of my internship at the Luzerne County Historical Society, I quickly understood what was expected and what my assignment would be. My assignment is to review old documents that belonged to a man named Volney Maxwell. Maxwell was a lawyer and one of the earliest members of the historical society in the 1800s. On Wednesday, and the first day of the internship, I was not fully introduced to the materials I needed to use. Amanda Fontenova, the curator, wasn’t in the office. Instead, I worked with another employee named Mark Riccetti. That day I decided to look up some information regarding Mr. Maxwell. What I learned was that he gave two lectures in 1858, which were published in the society archives. There was also the fact that society’s headquarters used to be his widow’s home. On Friday, I began to work with Amanda. She told me that I needed to look through the upstairs archives and go through folders inside these boxes that contained all documents Maxwell kept over the years. As I sifted through old documents, I did my best to decipher the old fashioned penmanship and type a brief description of what each was about. Most of them were letters from his legal partners like Ebenezer Bowman, who I learned was a veteran who participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill. There were even some letters from two people who were a part of the Continental Congress: Samuel Meredith and Tench Coxe. Meredith was a prominent merchant at the time who later became George Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, and Coxe was an economist. I ran into some financial statements and land deeds as well. On Friday, I managed to complete the first folder which ranged from 1804-1809. The next day, I began to work on the second folder of the first box. By the time I had left, I only had two remaining years left, 1818 and 1819. During my first week, I learned the ropes of what I am expected to do as well as testing my reading and deciphering skills (paleography), since the writing style of the period made it difficult to figure out the documents.
Immediately after I got back from the staff retreat in D.C, I was pushed right back into my daily routine of school. The VHA digital media team decided to cancel the staff meeting and they gave me time to reflect on what I liked about the trip and what could be changed.
But I still did some work that week: I submitted my PowerPoint on how to improve the internship program, I answered two staff members’ email requests, and attended an Equitas training seminar.
This last week, I attended the staff meeting and turned in the meeting minutes. We briefly discussed the trip and everyone’s time off, and who would cover for whom. I was selected to review the social media comments for Facebook and Twitter, which is super exciting.
I was also chosen to review and formulate a spreadsheet of weekly reports for all of 2019’s social media. I will collect data and produce a report with averages and what worked and what didn’t. I will officially start that in the next few days.
Also I am super excited for a possible upcoming project which would be going to the Wilkes Barre VA Medical Center and taking photos and videos. I did a one hour training session on video editing on the retreat and Matthew thought that he could work this out.
Also in the future I will be attending a seminar on Social Studio, which is another social media data resource.
This internship has been nothing but an amazing experience, and I look forward to future projects.
On my first project, I had to view over 100 VAMC’s Facebook pages and collect data, checking on whether their posts were getting engagements, how often they were posting, and other data like that. On the second project I had to collect similar data and work with averages for the month of November. I had to compile my data in several spreadsheets and input them into a PowerPoint. After some analysis, I created recommendations on how to better engage through social media, and created a posting schedule for the VAMC’s posts for Facebook and Twitter. I was then able to present my findings and my pitch at a meeting in DC. My third project was to verify five communication points for all the VAMCs; I had to call over 140 locations and view their individual websites to do this project.
My trip to DC was a wonderful experience. I was able to sit in on many presentations and several meetings. I went in for the normal 8am-5pm shift and even had team excursions after work. I am so thankful for Blake, Monica, and Jeff’s hard work to get me there. I learned so many things and was invited to webinars, trainings, and another online internship!
I am finishing up my third project and will be attending the Health content meeting for the upcoming semester. I will also be creating a PowerPoint on how to better communicate with interns and how to expand the program.
I am very grateful for everything this week, and will never forget this experience.