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May 15 / Matthew Fredericks

SLIS Alternative Spring Break – Lantern Slide Stabilization at Archives II

By Mattie Dugan, MLIS Student

Figure 1: National Archives building on the first day.

On March 13, I woke up bright and early in the new-to-me city of Washington DC. A short Metro ride later, I stood outside the National Archives for the first time (and, yes, I was that tourist snapping photos). Through the rear entrance were seven other interns from Wayne and around the country. We went through security, which I would get very used to through the week, and were led to the office of the Archivist of the United States.

My first visit to the National Archives building was incredible. Our small group talked with the Archivist of the United States, asking questions and answering them. The Assistant to the AOTUS, an effervescent and enigmatic man, led us on a private tour of the Archives. I’ll never forget being one of only nine people in a room with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

That afternoon, we arrived at what would be our workplace for the next week, Archives II in College Park, Maryland. Brittany Forth, another intern from Wayne, and I received training in NARA’s handling procedures. The knowledge from this experience alone has already proven incredibly valuable in my work and studies.

The rest of the week, Brittany and I worked in the conservation lab, under the supervision of Sara Shpargle and Lauren Varga, rehousing glass lantern slides that

Alternative Spring Break Participants and the Archivist of the United States

were used to train the Army Air Force from 1903 to 1927. We moved the slides from their cramped boxes to more appropriate boxes, putting those that were cracked in Mylar sleeves. The small boxes, combined with previous handling, had resulted in many of the slides becoming cracked or unstable, but the new boxes and sleeves will mitigate further damage. As we worked, Sara, Lauren and other conservators working in the lab stopped by our station to chat with us about their responsibilities and how we might pursue similar careers.

Figure 3: My work station in the conservation lab at Archives II

Sara and Lauren were wonderful mentors. They encouraged questions, took images of slides we found interesting, organized special tours for us and even helped us plan our visit to the Library of Congress. We toured the photographic archives, where we saw original photographs of Abraham Lincoln and Ansel Adams’ prints. As someone who is particularly interested in conservation, I was ecstatic when Sara allowed us to help in conservation treatment of one of the slides!

My time at NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) was invaluable. I’ve never learned so much in a single week! It was a wonderful opportunity to meet people working in my field and to see how one of the largest archives in the world operates. It was a privilege to be part of this program and you can bet I’ll be applying again next year!

Figure 4: A rehoused slide from RG 018 Army Air Forces, lantern slides of aviation history, ca. 1903-1927, box 41