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The UCI Libraries Celebrate History Interns!

For the third year in a row the UCI Libraries held the History Intern Celebration showcasing the work of 12 undergraduate interns from the History 197 internship class. It brings to an end a rich, but intense, quarter of activity for both the students and their supervisors. The diversity of internships offered by the host institutions such as the OC Parks, Sherman Library and Gardens, as well as our very own Special Collections and Archives department at UCI, allowed students to gain professional experience working hands on with digital collections, archival processing, oral histories and special collections exhibition design. 

The celebration itself was upbeat and lively and gave each intern the chance to present their work and engage with peers, colleagues, supervisors and hosts while enjoying dangerously good bagels, coffee and other treats. Everyone reacted enthusiastically to the notable growth of the internship program and to the forward thinking application of historical research by such a diverse and confident group of undergraduate historians.

Certificates of completion were handed out to the three Special Collections and Archives interns, Brenna Davies, Nichole Grimes, and Caytlin Yoshioka by the head of the department, Audra Eagle Yun. After the program, attendees were invited to continue the festivities and view the opening of a new exhibition outside the Verle and Elizabeth Annis Special Collections Reading Room put together by Nichole Grimes, a senior majoring in U.S History with a minor in Native American Studies.

Titled, The Mountains are Calling and I Must Go: The Life and Legacy of John Muir, this exhibition was the result of a perfectly timed reference consultation between Nichole and Becky Imamoto, Research Librarian for History and African American Studies. Nichole was looking for databases and places to start her research on the controversial damming of Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park for her Humanities Honors Program only to discover that Becky was beginning to work on an upcoming exhibition on National Parks.  There were too many parallels between their work to ignore and as a result, Nichole was invited to research and design an exhibition as part of her internship that would complement and integrate into a larger exhibition in Winter 2017. 

Over the course of the first five weeks of the quarter Becky worked with Nichole to look through the circulating collection at Langson Library as well as through the Special Collections & Archives to identity material that would relate to her theme of John Muir and Yosemite. 

Working with my intern, Nichole, on creating, "The Mountains are Calling: The Life and Legacy of John Muir," was a great experience. It gave me the opportunity to share my love of research, primary sources, and Yosemite. The History Internship program is a fantastic opportunity to really connect with a student in a positive way. Nichole told me that after seeing librarianship up close and personal, she has decided to apply to a graduate program in library science. I couldn't be more thrilled."

Having just started as Outreach and Public Services Librarian for Special Collections and Archives (Derek Quezada, I was asked to help Nichole structure the visual design of the exhibition for the second half of her internship. I was worried that there might not be enough time to get to where we needed to be for an opening at the end of the quarter but I was really impressed with the work that Becky and Nichole had done and the wonderful selection of material they had gathered. I was confident that we could do it.

For the next five weeks we took that raw material and, like a block of marble, edited it down to a cohesive exhibition that was true to the material and the original vision of Becky and Nichole. We worked iteratively, laying out what we had, editing out material that didn't fit thematically, selecting and adding new material when appropriate and shifting a lot of things around. We met once a week for a few hours in the reading room and used butcher paper measured to the four exhibition cases in the foyer to give us a realistic sense of what the final product might look like as we worked.

Nichole was great at adapting and adjusting her thinking to the demands of the material. Equally, she exceled at digging up interesting research behind each of the unique items in the collection, with the 'discovery' of an actual manuscript or hand-written text 'tipped' into another book being a particular highlight. She was also able to intuit the subtle but necessary rhythm and movement of the material within the cases and the inferences that could be made between the cases that make an exhibition cohesive and pleasant to look at.

I really looked forward to my time with Nichole during those five weeks. I found we had a lot in common, and a hands-on project that focused on the physical material from our collections was a welcome break from the necessary but sometimes overwhelming deluge of emails and meetings. I hadn't previously had the opportunity to guide someone else in the creation of an exhibition in such a short period of time but Nichole was smart, organized and eager to make it happen which really made me enthusiastic in turn. 

I know that both Christine Kim, Public Services Assistant for Special Collections & Archives and Laura Jackson Uglean, Archivist for University Archives had similarly enjoyable experiences with their interns. Working with Christine, Second year student Brenna Davies, explored digital exhibit tools on Calisphere, a digital collection platform powered by the California Digital Library. The exhibit component is a brand new never before used feature on Calisphere and Brenna took on the challenge to curate an online digital exhibit in an unexplored territory. Titled Southern California's Open Spaces: Activism and Environmental Challenges, this digital exhibit focuses on the distinct regions of Southern California that have been protected and preserved by local activists throughout the past two centuries. Brenna took her project one step further and created documentation, empowering future digital curators with quick and easy instructions to navigate the backend exhibit platform.

Caytlin Yoshioka, a third year history major, worked on the UC Irvine Photographs and Renderings of Campus Buildings collection with Laura Jackson Uglean. She processed the collection, created an online finding aid and digitized it. (http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt029034r4/). For Laura, working with Caytlin was a joy. 

She originally was only going to process the collection, but she got through it so quickly that I suggested she digitize it. She was excited to do this but I warned her that digitizing can be kind of slow and repetitive work. I told her that I wanted the internship to be as fulfilling and educational as possible, to which she immediately replied with something along the lines of "I've already learned more from this internship than any other internship I've had!" Best words ever from an intern!

I think for everyone involved in the History 197 internship, especially those who worked in the Special Collections & Archives, the experience was a real a delight and an opportunity that does not come along very often. 

To view photos from the History Interns reception visit the Libraries' Flickr here. 

For more information on the Libraries' involvement as a host site please contact me 
Derek Quezada, Outreach and Public Services Librarian for Special Collections and Archives, at quezadad@uci.edu.

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