The Start of My Journey at Boston National Historical Park
By: Ariadne Argyros
The first two weeks of my National Historical Park internship have been unconventional. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am working remotely from home. I am the curatorial assistant/intern for the Boston National Historical Park (NHP) and my job is normally very hands on, so the remote life has been especially unusual and a bit jarring for me. However, the convenience known as modern technology has once again come in handy! I have been making my way through the NHP’s website and its web exhibits. I definitely recommend exploring it if you can!
I started my internship two weeks ago and I was tasked with making myself familiar with the NPS Museum Program and especially with the NPS Museum Handbook, which has given me a good grounding in the consideration for care of NPS collections. The volumes have provided me with a better understanding of the National Park Service museums, introduced the different kinds of collections, collections management strategies, and writing the different sections of a collection statement.
I have been attending weekly meetings and webinars for the NPS and NHP staff as well, which have been informative in terms of discussing safety protocols that we need to follow when everyone can return to on-site work. A few people also presented on the sites they were working on, and during my weekly check-in calls with my boss, he suggested that I check out the 54th Regiment Memorial if possible. I tried to visit, but when I got to the edge of the Boston Common there was so much construction happening on and around it that I could only see small bits and pieces of the structure. So, it looks like I’m going to have to wait to visit until a later date!
Speaking of my boss, he has also been great during this whole process. He keeps me in the loop about weekly meetings, town halls, NPS news updates, and recommending monuments to visit and webinars to take part in and/or watch. He’s been checking in with me every week, asking how I’ve been doing and seeing if I had any questions about my week’s work as well as any concerns that I might have. It has been really nice because he is very conscious of the fact that while we are working from home, we are all still in the middle of a pandemic. This is an unprecedented time for all of us and it is vital for us to be patient and kind to one another, especially when starting a new job (and remotely at that!).
The second week of my internship was all about transcribing an NHP finding aid called “A Guide to the Records of the Boston Naval Shipyard”. A finding aid is an archival term for a type of inventory/guide to the contents of a specific archival collection—basically, it is an aid to assist in the finding of information and materials. These aids provide researchers with descriptions of the items in the collection as well as where to actually locate them. Considering that the NHP manages collections of over 400,000 items comprising textual records, photographs and architectural drawings, creating and maintaining finding aids is extremely important for research, inspection, and conservation purposes.
The transcribing that I’ve been doing is by no means glamorous, but it is also important because the NHP is working on digitizing finding aids and parts of its massive collection so that more people can check out and research collections. Accessibility is a significant goal of the Boston National Historical Park, and digitizing aids like this “Guide to the Records of the Boston Naval Shipyard” will be helpful to anyone who wants to take a look at our collections from home. Again, it’s not the most fun thing in the world to do, but I have to be meticulous because errors can result in the misplacement of files, papers, and even artifacts.