Roanoke College

Student interns at Library of Congress

  • Student interns at Library of Congress

  • 09/22/11
  • Imagine spending your summer researching and processing pieces from a collection revolving around something or someone of historical significance. Now, consider if you could do that same work in the Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world. That's exactly what Amanda Lapham '12 did.

    As one of 41 students in the Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program, Lapham spent her time in the Manuscript Division Preparation section. At the Library, she worked on the Jack Kemp collection. Kemp was a quarterback for the Buffalo Bills in the 1960s, a Representative for New York from 1971 to 1988, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary under George H.W. Bush and the vice-presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 1996. As Kemp was someone who took on many different roles, one can imagine working on his collection would be rather interesting.

    On a daily basis, Lapham sorted through press releases, memorabilia or schedules; photocopied brittle or mold-ridden paper; and organized items for final processing.

    "Being at the Library was very surreal for me," says Lapham. One of the most memorable experiences was when she and the other Manuscript Division interns were on a tour of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division, and the guides showed the group a number of items from their division's various collections, including a letter from Queen Elizabeth I to Mary, Queen of Scots. "I love learning about British and European history, especially the Tudors, so it was a great moment for me to see something actually written by Elizabeth I," says Lapham.

    "I want to go into the archival field because I want to help preserve a part of the world's history," Lapham says. "Being at the Library has taught me more of the specifics of how to sort, organize and describe manuscript materials, and because of this experience, it will give me an advantage when I begin to pursue jobs after college."

    Before interning at the Library of Congress, Lapham volunteered at the History Museum of Western Virginia in archives collections. At the museum, she worked on and continues to work on the Tayloe Papers, which consist of letters that focus on George P. Tayloe, his family and friends of the family. In this project, the ultimate goal is to digitize the collected works in order for the public to view them on the museum's online database. The Tayloe Papers were letters written throughout the 1800s. Most of the correspondence focuses on daily life, including farming and crops, illness or death of family members, and news about family and friends though some of the letters discuss the Civil War and how their life were impacted by the war. Lapham says this project was perfect for her because it was a mix between physical processing of the collection and research about the materials in the collection.

    In addition to her internships, Lapham collects knowledge towards the future in the classroom at Roanoke. A history major, member of the honors program and vice president of the historical society, Lapham is active on campus. She credits her professors with much of her success. "All of the professors I have had at Roanoke have pushed me to become a better student than I was when I first arrived at Roanoke two years ago, and due to their influence, I have a stronger drive to succeed in any endeavor I pursue," Lapham says.