Douglas Edwards at the National Archives’ Center for Legislative Archives

Douglas recounts his experience at the CLA:

I spent this summer interning at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives and Records administration in Washington, DC. I was an archival intern there, where I assisted in the day to day operations of the center, and got to learn a little bit about each of the functions archivists perform there.

I worked on a processing project, involving papers that the archives had received from Joe Biden’s office when he became vice president that had not been touched since they were given to the archives. I was given the freedom to arrange the records as I saw fit and then re-house them, with minimal preservation work where necessary. The collection was 110 boxes long, and I was unfortunately unable to finish what I started, but the organization scheme I came up with and began to implement is the one they will be using for those records, which is pretty awesome.

I also got to work with researchers who came in and assisted with reference requests. This involved learning NARA’s accession and organizational system. This task seemed daunting at first, yet by the end of the internship I felt like I could tell you where any given Congress could be found within a few rows, which was an amazing feeling. Assisting in this knowledge was also likely my work on a finding aid creation project, where we sought to collate existing description and perform original description where needed of records we held to put in digital finding aids. As things currently stand, all a prospective researcher can tell from their records are if we have records for a given Congress or committee, especially for earlier records. This project should increase the organizations ability to serve researchers greatly and I am proud to have worked on it.

Perhaps the coolest thing about working there, is that I was literally working in a national landmark, with a very cool museum in it and I got to see a lot of the records held in the so-called “treasure vault” where they store anything that is particularly valuable or historically important, including the records of the first 14 Congresses, the first issue of Mad magazine and a petition protesting a tax on whiskey from little known distiller Andrew Jackson. On my final week working there, I was tasked with performing basic description on about 40 drawers of unorganized oversized Senate documents, where I found a new treasure for the vault, the electoral vote tally sheet from the election of 1796, the first peaceful transfer of power in our nation’s history. That moment crystallized how I felt about my work there – I felt like I made a difference and got to actually leave an impact on our nations record-keeping and it was just a very cool experience. I hope to one day work there for real, here’s hoping.

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