I am currently completing an internship at Gloucestershire Archives to graduate from my Library and Information Technician college degree back in Quebec, Canada. A good friend of mine, an archivist at GA, introduced me to the profession and helped me arrange this 8-week stay.
Other contributors to this blog have something I still sorely miss: experience. My training will allow me, back home, to work in a variety of fields: archives, records management, and libraries. I could be an archivist with a college degree that varied, while the graduates here need to go through university (there will probably be some of that for me as well, resources and time permitting). My perspective is that of a foreign intern with little to say about her own side of the field.
One of the first tasks that were assigned to me was the transcription of a handwritten registry of photocopies and photographic reproductions. While it was not especially exciting, it still proved to be fascinating: unfamiliar with the local names, document typology and numerous types of handwriting, that simple task took me outside of my comfort zone and challenged my resourcefulness. And my eyes. It gave me a brief tour of the documents held at the archives as well: in short, it was an excellent introduction. I then took out many dozens of those copies to be disposed of, following the reassurance that the originals were held in good condition. Throwing things away in the context of archives still feels weird.
I also catalogued and packaged a collection from a branch of the Women’s Institutes, and am set to repeat the exercise with a few more before my stay ends just before Easter.
I also cannot overlook the interest the length of documented history holds: the capital of Quebec, one of the oldest cities in North America, was founded in 1608. The recent Richard III exhibition in March displayed two charters older than that by more than a century. I’ve been repeatedly told that “we don’t get to play with documents that old”, but the simple fact that they exist and are just there is still amazing to me.
I have visited a few archives centers back in Quebec, after my first visit here in 2011. The difference that struck me most was how organic the GA felt compared to those at home. The contact with the documents, the visitors, the rest of the staff, feels more like a living being with a very long memory than a machine with oiled cogs and wheels and data on file. Of course, my point of view might be biased, considering I have not worked in archives back home, but merely toured them. Still, the feeling remains.
Best of all, it is a fascinating way to learn about the history and culture beneath the stereotypes that cross borders and oceans. It’s about people, and is what brought me here in the first place.