Anthracite Heritage Museum 2/7/22-2/9/22

Kendall Williams

Due to the reopening of the museum for the season approaching, I was tasked with continuing the process of cleaning artifacts. The majority of the artifacts that I was responsible for cleaning were those related to the silk and garment industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The machines were used in factories that produced silk, material, and clothing in the first half of the twentieth century. It was important to make sure that I was careful while cleaning the machines for multiple reasons.

One reason was to make sure that I got dust from all parts of the machine, in some cases, in hard to reach areas. If dust was left to sit on them, it could attract moisture and cause the machine to rust, damaging it. It also was important to take note of where I was cleaning and if the surface was oily. Many of the machines still have remaining oil from when they were in use, and while we did not want to remove it, we did not want to spread it onto other parts of the machine.

When I was not cleaning, the curator, John Fielding, taught me about the process of accessioning and deaccessioning items in the collection. I did not have computer access in order to be able to log items on their digital item management site, but John showed me how the process would go so I had an idea for how it would work later.

We also discussed fulfilling requests from the public who were seeking information. Often times, those who had relatives who worked in the mines will reach out for information about them, asking for documents or other materials. We went through the process of trying to fulfill requests, which was valuable within itself to do. While unfortuante, it is not uncommon that information has been lost because documents have not been saved. In many cases, it is difficult to find what some people request because it simply does not exist in the collection. This is not uncommon in archival collections, and it was interesting to see how even with such well documented mining history there is here, that there still are gaps in the collection.

Anthracite Heritage Museum 1/19/22-2/2/22

Kendall Williams

At my first week of my internship at the Anthracite Heritage Museum, I was given a brief overview of the collection, the exhibit space, the archives, and the general day to day activities that the curator preformed there. We began our work by fulfilling a small project for Proctor and Gamble, who reached out to the Museum for small exhibits featuring photos and information about prominent black historical figures from the Wyoming Valley.

As we continued the project on into the next week, and I assisted in putting together the photographs and information for the exhibit posters, which included scanning, printing, and arranging the items. I also learned more about the history of prominent black families from the area and on their individual communities. After we had finished the project, we moved onto parts of the collection that are displayed in the exhibit area.

The remainder of the second week following into the third week, I learned more about proper artifact care. We discussed how to properly handle artifacts, such as where to support them when picking them up, when to wear gloves, and how to clean the artifacts. In order to prepare for the museums reopening in the spring, we had to ensure that the artifacts in the exhibit space were cleaned.

I had the opportunity to work on many different artifacts, like a sculpture, machinery, and textiles. Proper care had to go into cleaning the artifacts, and it must be done gently. In order to prevent any damage to the items, I had to ensure that any built up dust from being on display was removed. This is to make sure that moisture is not attracted to any of the artifacts, which would cause rust or rot to occur. I also learned how to properly clean textiles, which is even more delicate than cleaning machinery.

My first few weeks served as a wonderful introduction to much of the work that a curator does; collection care and public outreach are very important in that profession, which is something I saw at the Anthracite Heritage Museum.

Exhibit on Sister Miriam Gallagher, RSM (1887-1966)

Sara Shields

For my internship this semester with the Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, my final project was a small digital exhibit on Sister Miriam Gallagher, RSM (1887-1966).

Sister Miriam Gallagher was a dedicated professor of literature, creative writing, library science, and romance languages at College Misericordia. At the college, she served as the Librarian from 1928 to 1938, the Publicity Director from 1930 to 1940, and as the Chair of the English Department for one term. Sister Miriam was known as a prolific writer and editor of national renown, having authored two of her own volumes, Love Is Enough: New and Selected Poems and Woven of the Sky. She also edited Cedar Chips by Father Patrick Augustine Sheehan. In addition to her own books, she was also heavily involved in the student literary journal, Thinker’s Digest, and served as its editor from 1940 to 1957.

In order to prepare for the exhibit, I wrote a biography on Sister Miriam, compiled objects that I wanted to include, and wrote the metadata for those objects. After I completed those tasks, Maureen (the MU archivist) introduced me to Omeka, a digital publishing platform.

I had previously learned of Omeka in the past, however, I had not utilized it myself yet. I was surprised at how incredibly user-friendly it was! Since I already had the metadata for the objects, entering them into Omeka was very simple. Here you can see a few of the fields required for the metadata:

The fields required included: the title, subject terms, description, creator, date, and item type.

Once I uploaded all of the items and completed inputting the metadata for them, I began to design the exhibit. I specifically wanted to focus on Sister Miriam’s writing career, so the items I included were scans of the covers of Love Is Enough and Woven of the Sky, as well as the covers of three volumes from the Thinker’s Digest. Since this exhibit was on a single case, it was small, but displayed the impact that Sister Miriam left on Misericordia.

This internship, especially this project, gave me valuable experience with digital exhibits and metadata standards. Omeka is widely used in the field of public history so I was happy to gain some experience with it, as well as learning about Dublin Core, the standard for metadata. This is my third digital exhibit that I’ve curated within my time at Misericordia, and each time I feel like I learn more and more.

You can view this exhibit on Sister Miriam Gallagher, RSM here.

MU Archives Week 14

Sara Shields

Looking back on my internship with the Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives this semester, one of my favorite tasks was transcribing oral histories for the Center for Nursing History of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Being able to listen to the nurses’ experiences at Misericordia was very interesting! They had tons of fun stories that were entertaining to listen to, and they were also very informative about what Misericordia was like when they attended school here. From listening to them, I can see how much the university has grown over the past fifty years. It was amazing to hear about their experiences and compare them to mine, and other students today.

As I mentioned in a previous post, transcribing oral histories is very important. Accessibility is incredibly important in the field of public history as it allows us to reach broad audiences and distribute information easily. While transcription would get tiring at some times (pausing, rewinding, editing, etc.), I really enjoyed listening to the stories of former nurses who attended Misericordia, while also gaining experience and learning new skills.

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!

Week 13

For the thirteenth and final week of my internship, I finally managed to finish the names from the list sent to me. During this week I covered the years from 1869 to 1872. I thought that 1872 was important because this was the year before he died. My assumption is that Maxwell died really early in 1873, so that would explains its exclusion from the list. There really was not much to discuss from any of the findings. No new names or names of stores. Maxwell died in 1873, so it is likely he was not working as hard for the last five years of his life. That said I have no clear idea when he retired since there were very little names on the list during the 1870s. It was fitting that I managed to complete it in my final week. After I finished the list I told both Amanda and Dr. Black that I was finished. I sent the list to Amanda and then had to work on a reflection paper for Dr. Black. It only had to be one page long so it did not take too much time for me to complete. I also made sure to send out a thank you email to Amanda for allowing me to have an internship and to work away from Luzerne County. I loved looking through documents that were well over a hundred years old and trying to piece out information about a man who has been dead. Despite the setbacks from the pandemic, I still enjoyed my internship at the Luzerne County Historical Society. I would also like to thank Dr. Black again for helping me get this internship in the first place and further assisting me. As well as, Mr. Donahue too for telling me what to do for my internship when I knew it was time to start.

Week 12

For week 12, I typed up the names from 1860-1868. As mentioned in last week’s post, I was rather miffed that I could not look through the files during the Civil War. I have no way of knowing what Maxwell did during the Civil War, but it seems that he might have been rather busy. Not busy in the sense of fighting since this is also close to the end of his life, but more in terms of work. The files from 1860-1865 have a lot more names on them. I have no idea if these are from the family members of those killed during the war trying to ask for insurance, as well as his friends discussing the war. As well as the political occurrences like the Emancipation Proclamation. I am a little upset that I may never be able to look through any of these documents, but I am at peace with this. The years after the war had less content in comparison. Granted that’s not to say that there were very few, 1868 had a pretty large sample. 1868 might have been the last time Maxwell ever worked full time since the following years have even fewer names. Then again it could be since it was three years after the war ended, so perhaps business started to pick up again considering the fewer amount of content implied on the document. There were no notable new names that I could see, just the same coal and mining companies as before. Not to mention, the same banks and insurance companies as before. I figured that the insurance companies would have a couple of documents during each year of the Civil War addressed to Maxwell. At the time of this writing, I have finished the entire list and the following week’s post will be about my reflection paper.

Week 5

On Wednesday, I finally managed to complete the folder for 1833. One of the more interesting things that I examined was that Maxwell had been in correspondence with John Dement. Dement was the Treasurer of Illinois at the time the letter was written. I could not make out the writing of the letter, but it was interesting to see that Maxwell had been talking to someone from a faraway state like Illinois. Although after some research I did learn that Chicago was founded that year, so it is possible the letters relate to that notable point. As to why Maxwell was invested in that, I have no idea. On Friday, I began to work on the folder for 1834. One document that I noticed was that Maxwell was still in charge of the finances of Ebenezer Bowman’s estate long after he died. It is also possible that Maxwell had been working with a relative of Ebenezer named Issac. It is likely that Isaac was Ebenezer’s son who inherited the estate following his father’s death. What was also interesting is that the letter mentions the year he died, 1829, was a year of political struggle. The struggle was between James W. Bowman (possibly Isaac’s brother) and George Dennison against the administration of someone named Thomas W. Miner. I could not find any information about Miner, so I am unsure of what kind of political role he had like mayor or district attorney. However, I thought it was important to bring up as it did provide a brief amount of information regarding the history of the county. Finally, on February 22, I managed to get as much work done for the 1834 folder as I could. Most of the documents I looked at were financially based as usual, and I could not make out anything as interesting as the previous days. With that said, I plan to finish the 1834 folder by Wednesday of next week and start the next box too.

Week 1

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.