Eric Pfeiffer, 2013
History Major, Theater minor
Schwenkfelder Library/Mennonite Heritage Center
Summer 2012, stipend
This past summer, senior History major Eric Pfeiffer interned at the Schwenkfelder Library in conjunction with the Mennonite Heritage Center. “I worked with a cataloguer, Caitlyn Harvey gathering information for an online database on coverlets and quilts at the Schwenkfelder Library and Mennonite Heritage Center.” Pfeiffer and Harvey took measurements of everything from the length of the fringe on the coverlets, to particular patterns and designs. The database will allow researchers to have detailed descriptions and information on the various pieces within three collections. “The purpose of this was to more or less have all of the minor details of the coverlets and quilts online so researchers can easily find and use the data."
The internship involved a lot of meticulous measuring and lengthy sessions in front of the computer entering data. “Day to day was a little monotonous” Pfeiffer says wryly, “but the work overall was pretty interesting. “I’m a bit of a civil war buff so getting to go back into the archives of the Schwenkfelder Library and seeing old civil war uniforms was pretty cool.” Learning about the different objects and their personal histories was a definite highlight of the internship. “I learned a lot about clothing and textiles in the 1800’s as well as the religious groups in the area. But I also learned a lot about working in an office and museum setting."
"I wasn’t just getting coffee. I was more of an integral part of the process than I would have expected to have been as an intern.” Because it was a smaller historical society he was able to meet and interact with everyone on a daily basis. Working for a smaller historical society definitely encourages networking, claimed Pfeiffer. “Networking through these groups you meet a lot of people both within the society and in the local communities.”
The internship gave Pfeiffer the opportunity to learn about working in a small museum setting and the expectations that go along with it. However, Pfeiffer plans on looking into working in more of a park-style environment where he can spend more time working with people and in the outdoors.
My advice to other History majors looking to do an internship with a historical society would be: take advantage of small historical societies or at least don’t ignore them as a possibility. They can be very useful because you get a lot of personal attention. Because of this, you form strong bonds with other members of the historical society. I definitely think they are worth looking into.