By Taya Wallace
Taya did such a great job during her internship that we hired her for the summer. In the fall she will begin an internship at the Office of Public Records in Washington, D.C.
I love stories. Getting into the minds of other people who are put in extremely different circumstances has always fascinated me. I love learning how others think and what makes them tick. For this reason, I have always been drawn to history. It is a real way to put oneself in the shoes of those who came before and learn how they dealt with extremely difficult circumstances. My passion for stories led me to earn a degree in history.
However, as my studies progressed, I continually ran into the questions from family members and friends that all humanities majors dread, “What do you plan to do with your degree? Are you going to teach?”
Teaching is an amazing profession, and I have a lot of respect for those who go into the field. But I knew that it was not the path for me. Usually I settled with the response, “I’m going to do great things,” followed by a smile and a prompt exit from the conversation.
These questions made me realize I needed to put more thought into my future career.
So, what changed? How did I find an answer to this all-consuming question? An internship at the Utah Division of State History created an answer to this question that I now employ when confronted by well-meaning loved ones: I’m going to become an archivist.
While researching internship opportunities, Melissa Coy of the Library and Collections Program reached out to me and offered an internship position. I would be aiding in an inventory of the manuscript collections held at the Rio Grande building. I was extremely excited: here was an opportunity to not only make a real difference, but to take my love for history and begin my career in it.
From my initial project, I started to care for previously processed collections and processing collections all on my own. I find the process of taking old boxes of documents—often unorganized messes with files and paperwork scattered throughout—and rebuilding organizational systems that tell a narrative extremely rewarding. This process has allowed me to engage with my love of stories and story-telling on a daily basis.
It has been a very hands-on experience: I get to touch and handle historical documents every single day. The projects I worked on in my internship provided me with practical skills that I know I will be able to take with me into the future. It was only a bonus that the projects were fun and interesting to work on.
My internship at the Division of State History has not only allowed me to develop practical skills, but it has also widened my networking circle. I have been able to meet many professionals in my field and discuss with them their favorite aspects of their careers. I have been welcomed with open arms into Division activities and meetings. The atmosphere here has been welcoming, and everyone is incredibly helpful and willing to pass on their own knowledge.
At the end of my internship, I am glad to say that I now have two answers to the question of “What do you plan to do with your history degree?” I can now answer that, “Yes, I am going to do great things, and I am going to do them by becoming an archivist.” I can honestly say that had this internship opportunity not come my way, I would probably still be struggling with a direction for myself. Would I have arrived there in the end? Possibly. But the skills and insights I developed over the course of my time at the Division of State History have laid the path for a future that I am extremely excited to be a part of.