Last summer, Maria Gregor ’21 obtained an internship with the Kennebec Historical Society in Augusta, ME. One Thing after Another was intrigued and asked Maria to discuss her experiences.
Q: What inspired you to go to work for the Kennebec Historical Society? How did you end up in the position?
A: When I grew up in Augusta, Maine, the Kennebec Historical Society (KHS) was always an integral part of the community. I remember distinctly that when I was a child, its members and staff were constantly organizing public events and trying to generate community interest in the rich histories of Kennebec County and the general Augusta area. My grandfather has been a member of the society after moving to Maine many years ago, and he regularly attends programs that they hold. These include talks on a wide variety of New England topics and more specific discussions about local history. He suggested that I might apply there, as he understood how invested I am in history and its preservation for future generations. I applied for the position in the early spring of my sophomore year of college and interviewed for the job in early May. I was the last candidate to be interviewed, which meant that I started working almost immediately after I was hired. I met with the archival staff as well as the director and president of the establishment during the interview process, and they thought I was a good fit for their team!
Q: What sort of tasks were you assigned as an archival intern? Which of these was your favorite? Was there anything that was particularly challenging?
A: As an archival intern, I performed a wide variety of tasks that were important to the advancement of the organization. Much of my work had to do with the organization of books and documents in the Kennebec Historical Society Collection. Unfortunately, because so many years have elapsed since certain items were brought in, it was very difficult to figure out what to do with them or how to categorize them. One of my jobs was to completely take apart and reconstruct the entire Annex Library, book by book, which could get quite tedious. I then had to enter each item into the database individually. However, it was well worth it when the final shelf list was solidified and everything was finally findable. The rest of my work was mostly centered around document preservation and transcription. These tasks required a wealth of information (and manuals) which enabled me to place documents in the collection by appropriate time period and preserve them. This was some of my favorite work. There is nothing quite like the feeling of having saved an important piece of information from decay.
Q: What variety of skills would you say that you developed or refined during your time with KHS? Would you say that this internship helped you towards your career goals?
A: During my time at the KHS, I discovered a number of things about the documents that we so often read as primary sources during our time as history majors. I often think that we take the preservation of such documents for granted. I learned how to properly preserve documents in melinex and file them away as well as how to catalogue new items and books. This position also fine-tuned my skills as a team leader, negotiator, and critical thinker. Most of the new skills I gained were learned on the fly, and without careful thought and a willingness to work with my fellow intern, I would have been entirely lost. Once I learned these new tasks, I was then able to become a leader and work more closely with the head archivist. Despite the fact that I have decided to pursue law in the future, this internship opportunity gave me a chance to engage in an aspect of my major that I never would have investigated otherwise. I learned a great number of valuable skills in terms of working with people who might have a different work ethic than myself, and I also got to experience the collection of New England history behind the scenes.
Q: Are there any particularly interesting stories from your work, or any historical facts that you uncovered over the summer that you would be willing to share?
A: A particularly interesting story from my time at the KHS is one related to the house I currently live in. When my family moved to Maine, my father received a plaque from KHS stating that our house was historical and listing the original owners of the house. During my time as an intern, I asked about my house and searched the existing database for items linked to the property. There, I discovered a letter addressed to a descendant of the original owner and was able to transcribe it and scan it into the digital collection. It was fascinating to glimpse the life of someone who lived in my house centuries before I did!
Q: Why did you decide to declare a history major?
A: When I came into Saint Anselm College as a history major, I initially wanted to become a professor. Today, the idea of making a difference in law appeals more to me. History is a versatile major, though, and it promotes a variety of skills that can be useful in any number of areas. No matter what career I choose, I know that a history degree will strengthen my ability to do research, writing, and critical analysis. It is a major for those who are curious about the world and want to be immersed in it.