THERESA MARY WALKER-RAY
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Last spring I was considering doing independent research on migration and the Harlem Renaissance. The idea was that this research would allow me to explore themes from Daphne Lamothe's class that I took last spring. I also was looking for summer internships or fellowships and found a great program at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a division of the New York Public Library. Unfortunately, I was not eligible for the Undergraduate Humanities Summer Institute.
In discussing the possibility of a special studies and my disappointment about the fellowship, my adviser, Kevin Quashie, suggested that I consider an internship at the Schomburg using the resources at Praxis. This idea seemed daunting to me since the Schomburg did not have an internship program. My adviser helped me to identify a contact and to craft an introductory email. At first I did not get a response, so I wrote a second email. Finally, I got an invitation to intern in the Archives, Manuscripts, and Rare Books division.
This particular position combined my two interests of African American studies and library science. Prior to the internship, I had had no experience in archival work. On my first day the department's curator had me create a finding aid for a collection on the Umbra Poets; I was completely overwhelmed. Needless to say, during my time I learned how to organize the materials in a collection, and to create finding aids. I worked on smaller projects as well as larger ones for the archivists in the division. During most of my internship, I assisted with the collection of Luther Henderson's papers (he was a classically trained composer and arranger). I loved finding the "gems" in a collection. For example, I found an exchange of letters between Henderson and his future wife Billie Allen.
The collection I worked on my first day consisted of one box of documents; by my last day I had put together, on my own, a finding aid for a twelve-box collection on fashion designer Jon Haggins. It was a terrific experience.
Theresa is a senior major with a particular interest in African American history.