Wow, so it is a bit insane that this school year is coming to a close. It’s been a trip for sure. Although this wasn’t my first experience with grad school, it was definitely a different experience from anything I have done before. First of all, it was great to take history classes again. Despite the stress of doing a lot of reading and writing, it’s still always fun to have the opportunity to explore new historical themes and perspectives. I think it’s great that the department gives us the freedom to take pretty much whatever we are interested in outside of the required courses. Taking classes like Dr. Hirsh’s History of Technology and Dr. Halpin’s US History from 1877 has been really informative and fun. I’ve been able to learn a lot and broaden my understanding of history. I’m looking forward to the classes I will take next year as well, even if I haven’t quite figured out what exactly I want to take.
I think taking courses like the two methods classes, Dr. Quigley’s research class, and the writing workshop were also very helpful. When I came here I had spent over a year out of school, so I was a little rusty on my research and writing skills. I feel like I’ve sharpened them a lot this year, and I feel totally prepared to begin my research this summer and then my research paper in the fall. Not only do I feel like a better writer, but I also feel like I am much better at taking constructive criticism. I’m going to be working on my project next year with the support of a fantastic, supportive committee, and I feel that I’m in the position to have a great thesis-writing experience next year.
Finally, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work at Special Collections this year, and I look forward to going back in the fall. I have learned so much there, and gotten to work with some really cool collections. Special Collections has a great team of archivists and student workers, that are frankly just an absolute blast to work with. I know I’m not going on to work in academia. I’ve known that for a long time. Public history just makes sense for me, and working at Spec has reinforced that for me. I’m not sure if I will go on to work at an archives somewhere down the road, but I do know why I love the public history field. Although working with rare collections is super cool, my favorite part of working in an archives is helping people. Every week we all work a number of hours at the front desk working directly with the researchers who come in. Sometimes they know exactly what they want to look at. Other times they need a little more guidance. I love helping all of them. I love learning about the projects they are doing. I love the satisfaction of helping them find exactly what they need. To me, my weekly desk shifts remind me of why I have always loved public history and want to continue down that path. I love helping the public access history whether that’s through pulling a collection of Civil War letters for a patron or giving interpretive programs. I’m really glad I get to be reminded of that every week, and it makes me even more anxious to finish up this degree and get out there to do it full time.