In Spring 2012, Elizabeth Pente served as an intern in the Albin O. Kuhn Library's Special Collections department, working within the Center for Biological Sciences Archives. Liz was kind enough to write a summary about her experience. Thanks Liz!
Entering the Archives: Processing the International Union of Immunological Societies records, Spring 2012
As a graduate student pursuing my Masters of Arts in Historical Studies on a public history track, I was excited when an archival internship opportunity arose through the Special Collections department and the Center for Biological Sciences Archives in the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). While my archival experience was limited, I had some related skills from my undergraduate education at Dickinson College and prior work experience as a Geologist in New Jersey. I wanted to gain experience in an archive because I believe in preserving the past, so that it may be accessible to people in the present and future. To my delight, I was offered the internship and began working in the Special Collections department this past February.
The collection I have been working with over the past few months is the records of the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS). Having a scientific background made the fact that the documents for the Spring 2012 internship were of a scientific nature even more appealing to me. The idea for the IUIS emerged in the 1960s from a group of individuals who identified as immunologists and found they needed a way to network and interact with one another on an international level. This would become a reality when the IUIS was founded in Belgium on May 5, 1969. The records of the IUIS span from the origins of the Union in 1969 through 2011. Aside from the Union’s origin, the collection contains records on its membership, committees, and the expansion of the International Congress of Immunology.
The focus of my internship has been a processing project that involves incorporating previously acquired records of the IUIS into the existing collection. The materials I have been working with were received in 2004 and 2005, but were not added in to the processed collection. With the incorporation of these materials into the processed collection, future accessions will be added easier and more documents will be available for potential researchers of the IUIS.
The newly processed materials range from council correspondence to ephemera from the meetings of the International Congress of Immunology. Some of the ephemera range from elaborate in-flight menus acquired travelling to meetings, to meeting programs and trinkets from the cities that hosted the conferences. One of the most interesting things to see in processing these materials was the growth of international membership societies and regional federations. Among the new records were documents from twenty-four international societies seeking membership in the IUIS. Information regarding these twenty-four international societies, representing countries such as Armenia, Cuba, and Zimbabwe, were not previously included in the processed collection. For me, these were some of the most interesting documents to review.
To date, all of the materials have been read through and intellectually arranged to fit into the existing collection. Following the initial arrangement of materials, I began updating the existing collection record and finding aid. The last steps to be completed will include re-housing the materials and finalizing the collection record and finding aid. This internship has been a very rewarding undertaking for me. As a student planning to make a career in public history, this exposure to working in an archive has introduced me to a potential avenue to use my degree. My goal was to gain experience working in an archive in an effort to preserve the past, and through processing the records of the IUIS, I was able to achieve this goal. As I continue to pursue a future in the field of public history, I will take with me the skills I acquired during my time at this internship.
For more information on the International Union of Immunological Societies, visit http://aok.lib.umbc.edu/specoll/IUIS/index.php.