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Internship with the Special Collections Library at Penn State University
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Peter Szekeres

Paterno Fellow
Majors: History, English
Minor: International Studies
Hometown: Wayne, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

The English Department internship coordinator, Professor Liz Jenkins, recommend this program to me.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

During my time in the Special Collections Library, I learned about the archival process, practice, and theory. After gaining a better understanding about the nature of the work done by the Special Collection archivists I was given a collection – The Ken Lawrence Collection of New Left Posters, Buttons, and Other Materials, 1940-2010 – to research and describe.

“Academically, this experience sharpened my research, organizing, and writing skills."

One of my first assignments was to understand the collection as a whole as well as in its subdivisions. Afterwards, it was my task to research certain subseries – like posters pertaining to Africa or buttons relating to civil rights movements – and provide descriptions for them so that the collection may be more easily accessible for future researchers. Another assignment was the creation of a virtual exhibit, which is currently on the Special Collection Library’s Flickr site. I was given creative license to choose which pieces to include and I had to provide brief descriptions and metadata for each item. I also conducted an interview with the collector, Ken Lawrence. Lastly, I thoroughly researched the collector and wrote an extensive essay outlining his intellectual biography. Much of the essay and research for this project was self-directed, but it was meant to enhance the collection as a whole by shedding more light on its creator.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Understanding what you’re working with is a big aspect of the internship, which required a good amount of research. Furthermore, I had to remain organized when dealing with such a large collection. As a byproduct of research and organization, I was consistently writing and note-taking and my analytic and descriptive writing improved as a result.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I will be going to Grad school for English at Penn State, and the skills I mentioned above will greatly enhance my future research and work. I also plan to join the publishing industry, and such an internship demonstrates my ability to perform self-directed research. Furthermore, I will now have several online sources that can be easily seen and can attest to the quality of my research, analysis, and writing.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would definitely recommend this internship to students who wish to pursue research and writing heavy jobs. The applicant should have a keen interest in history and literature. My imagination went wild with some of the historical pieces I worked with. A notable plus: the internship is paid!

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