This summer, on a scorching hot Columbia day, I stumbled upon an e-mail from the Honors College about an internship with South Carolina Political Collections. My parents had constantly been pressuring me to find an internship, so I read the description and became intrigued. When I realized that the SCPC was in the perfect location, “that new part” of Thomas Cooper Library, I had no option but to apply for the position.
That’s how I wound up spending most of my Monday mornings and Tuesday afternoons this semester hard at work in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library. My name is Lauren Stefan and I am a senior here at USC. I major in International Studies with a minor in French and Spanish. I showed up on my first day at SCPC not knowing quite what to expect but ready to follow whatever instructions I received. On my tour of SCPC, I noticed that there were more boxes here than had filled up the countless moving vans of my youth!
I started by sorting through boxes and boxes of material that will ultimately comprise the Joe Wilson Collection. I rummaged through stickers, campaign flyers, Christmas cards, birthday cards, event invites, news briefings, DVDs, itineraries, photographs, House documents, and more. I did this for several weeks, each day uncovering a new item that seemed either highly comical or absolutely out of place.
My next task was to create a research guide, which I had never previously done. I chose to write it on the Civil Rights Era, mainly focusing on different aspects of the desegregation of education (click here to see the finished product!) I began by preparing an extensive list of boxes to delve into, worried that I was going to have a difficult time finding enough information. That concern shortly proved unnecessary as the first box I pulled off the shelf was overflowing with exciting pieces of history! The sheer volume of material available throughout the collections blew me away. As I read the documents, I felt as though I had transported back to the 1950s and 1960s. I constantly had to remind myself that there was not enough time to read every document from start to finish.
Throughout the semester, I learned the ins and outs of working at SCPC. Eventually I remembered to bring an extra jacket (or two) to throw on anytime I went down to the icy stacks. I even dealt with the chaos of dressing appropriately for work, quickly changing out of my athletic gear in the restroom right before coming to work. Better yet, I embraced the weird looks I received as I plead to my friends and classmates that my internship at the library was actually rather meaningful because I was surrounded by a plethora of information on a regular basis. I improved my overall knowledge of South Carolina political history and picked up several interesting facts about politicians and events.
This opportunity is one that I am very thankful to have had. The people I work with are always smiling and positive. They care about their work, but also about having a fun and relaxed environment, always making sure to celebrate birthdays and holidays with decorations and candy. The only thing I would change is to have had this experience earlier in my college career. It introduced me to a huge expanse of information that I would have loved to use on past assignments. SCPC is an invaluable resource that I hope to be able to make use of in my last semester at USC as I write my Senior Thesis and take my last few courses as a student. From getting stuck in the staircase on my first day to stomping on bubble wrap this past Monday, I have had a unique experience at SCPC that has given me a wonderful insight into the world of archiving and research.