This summer, Buncombe County Special Collections was lucky enough to host three student interns; two who worked directly in Special Collections, Nancy and Zoe, and a third, Corrina, who worked with a local community organization, but spent most of her time in the archives. The internship was facilitated by the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy, a program that provides leadership training and paid job experience to local high school students.
On the final day of their internship, Zoe and Nancy reflected on their time working in special collections…
Through the CAYLA program, I interned with the Special Collections at Pack Library in Downtown Asheville. I worked Tuesdays and Thursdays along with my co-worker Zoe. The first couple of weeks, I went through the Urban Trail collection and took staples out, and categorized the boxes. It was a long process, but I found it quite fun to remove all the rusted staples and replace them with plastic clips. We continued to sort through the boxes and found many photographs of the grand openings of stations. We threw away photo duplicates and only kept the most important photos. When we finished categorizing the Urban Trail boxes, I put them into the ArchivEra. The system allows easy access to information like to say specific urban trail information and where to locate it for people wanting to do research.
My favorite box I came across was Box 7 of the Urban Trail collection. This box is full of old newspaper clippings, VHS, Cassettes, floppy disks, and so much more! We got to take a look at a VHS labeled “Burying time capsule.” The audio and video are a bit distorted, but you could tell what was happening. I cannot wait till the year when the time capsule gets opened, and Asheville citizens get to see what they stored in here for future generations.
Going to downtown Asheville and walking the Urban Trail was my favorite part of the internship. Even though we did not finish the walk, I learned more about the people featured in the Urban Trail. There is defiantly a Thomas Wolfe obsession in Asheville, especially over his foot size. That same day we headed to City hall and met with the Arts and Cultural Committee. I enjoyed listening to them talk in their meeting about the Urban trail and changes they wanted to make in the future. They expressed their ideas to each other and asked questions to keep the conversation going. I was surprised because I expected the meeting to be analytical and formal, but it was very engaging and causal. Sadly we had to leave the meeting early because we had to stop by some more Urban
If I had to choose my least favorite bit would have to be reading through Box 1 folders. We took notes of the important dates and created a timeline. It was a long process that took us four whole days to complete two boxes of the urban tail collection. It was a tedious job because I did not know what dates were considered crucial. The box I went through had lots of letters from the Urban Trail Committee to donors of stations thanking them for their gifts. That box was more difficult to find main dates because most of the paper was thank you letters.
I am so grateful for this opportunity that I was presented with and accepted too! Alex Mitchner did a great job taking my interests and matching them to an internship opportunity. I had a great time here in the Special Collections department and learned so much about Asheville’s untold history. Working at the Special Collections was a great learning experience that will help me in the future!
When I heard I got into the CAYLA (City Of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy) program I was so excited to see all the opportunities presented to me. After talking with Ms. Mitchiner, who’s CAYLA’s leader, she decided that working at Buncombe County Special Collections for the summer would best fit my interests. To be honest, if you had asked me what BCSC was anytime before June I would have responded with, “what is that?” When I arrived for my first day, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Katherine gave Nancy and me a sheet explaining what an archivist was and, that is how we started our internship. Our next couple of months were filled with many different tasks that all corresponded to being an archivist.
Throughout our internship, we primarily focused on the Urban Trail. And I was shocked to see how much work, money, and time went into Asheville’s most popular walking trail. Nancy and I went back to our table in the “vault” and saw one box addressed Urban Trail and I thought to myself that this would be quick work. I was wrong.
We spent hours looking at hundreds of pictures for different dedications on the UT throughout Asheville. I thought it was really funny looking at the 90’s styles. Specifically, seeing the super high-rise pants the women wore. Besides pictures, there were slides, VHS tapes, reels, floppy discs, and more. If I am being honest I could not tell you what half of those were a month ago. Understanding the concept behind a Floppy disc was especially hard for me because I am so used to using my inch-long 64GB flash drive.
Our second week was pretty awesome. Nancy and I got to go to a dedication for an Urban Trail stop. The Shopping Daze artwork used to be near Malaprops but was moved and re-dedicated to honor the large number of Jewish businesses that kept Asheville going in the early 1900s. That morning, we heard from the mayor and the granddaughter of one of the original store owners. I found it really cool that some of the same people from 25 years ago in the pictures were there. It was interesting to see how different they looked now.
We returned and started learning how to categorize boxes and how to properly re-label them to ensure that future people who read through them can do so easily. After this task was over, we started the daunting task of destapling every sheet of paper in all 11 boxes of Urban Trail material. My parents laughed when I told them that was all we did for a week, but I was very serious. I had the paper cuts and stab wound from the “destapler” to prove it. While this task was not exactly fun, it gave Nancy, Corrina, and I a chance to really get to know each other and watch a classic film, Gnomeo, and Juliet.
After destapling everything, we started making a timeline for the creation of the Urban Trail. Looking through our colorful Plastiklips papers we picked out the most important information and added it to the timeline with our beautiful Chicago-style citations. This took us quite a while because each box had at least 30 folders packed with meeting minutes, donor lists, and dedication invitations.
Aside from all the big events I have talked about, the smaller things we have done have been just as exciting. My personal favorite was when we were introduced to “Toms Room” which is where all the Thomas Wolfe books, foreign books, and super old books are kept. I tried reading the German version of Look Homeward, Angel. I failed epically. There was a book of poetry from 1854 which I found quite interesting. Specifically, how Christian morals played such a large part in her poems. Peggy, another archivist at BCSC taught me how to repair broken papers with super sticky, thin tape which was a pain to get off its wrapping but I eventually got it. But most importantly, I love the memories I made with everyone here this summer.