Intern Highlight: Jessica Schwindenhammer

Posted March 20, 2024 in General

Intern Highlight: Jessica Schwindenhammer

My name is Jessica Schwindenhammer, and I had the pleasure of being an intern at the Moravian Archives during the Spring 2024 period. I am enrolled as a graduate student at Pennsylvania Western University, working on my Master’s in Library Science (local and archival studies concentration). My degree required me to complete 135 hours of field experience, which brought me to the Moravian Archives, and I had the pleasure of cataloging a series of scrapbooks that make the Rice Collection.

The scrapbooks were purchased at an auction in November 1985 and have sat mainly untouched. The Rice Collection consists of four scrapbooks and an additional published photography book belonging to the Rice family. The first volume consists of materials that belonged to James Alexander Rice and his parents, Joseph Rice and Anna Salome Heckewelder. Volume two continues with James’ materials up until his death. From there, the materials in the scrapbook belonged to or were created by his wife, Josephine Leibert, and their children, Joseph Alexander, William Henry, and Rebecca. Volume three continues with the same subjects, and volume four focuses on materials made by William Henry Rice while he attended Yale College and traveled abroad with other Moravians. Throughout each of the scrapbooks, there are countless examples of correspondences and periodicals. Other items kept in the scrapbooks include but are not limited to, Moravian missionary documents, educational materials, drawings, and locks of hair that belonged to Joseph Alexander Rice’s daughters, Isabelle and Louise.

After processing the Rice Collection, I found the scrapbooks to be of interest to family and local historians. The four scrapbooks show examples of correspondences received by members of the Rice family. Additionally, some documents provide information on their social activities within Bethlehem and the Moravian Church. Other materials that may interest family historians include various handwritten memoirs found in volume one and William Henry Rice’s letters home from his travels in Europe found in volume four. From the local history perspective, many loose periodicals are found within the loose materials portion of volume one, and clippings exist throughout the scrapbooks. In each of these examples, researchers can find information on events happening in the Lehigh Valley at the time. Ultimately, the collection provides a great deal of information for anyone interested in Bethlehem’s residents, the Moravians, Bethlehem, and the state of Pennsylvania.

As I finish my internship at the Moravian Archives, I can’t help but reflect on my past and current experiences. Before my current degree, I obtained a Master’s degree in 2019 while I studied in the United Kingdom. While I was abroad, I had the opportunity to visit the archives for class and received hands-on experience in creating manuscript descriptions and transcriptions. Fast forward to this degree, I found myself needing hands-on work experience since the whole program takes place virtually. So, to do something different, I chose an in-person internship rather than getting a virtual placement for my field experience course. I decided to reach out to the Moravian Archives since they are local, and I was incredibly relieved to hear that they had an archival processing request for me to work on.

Processing the Rice Collection was both a challenging and rewarding experience for me due to the sheer scope of the materials and my limited time frame. Since I had to complete 135 hours for my class, I had to change my work schedule to allow me to visit the archive every Tuesday and Thursday for the past two months. The collection was challenging because I needed help making sense of some of the materials in the scrapbooks. For example, I needed help understanding some handwritten documents in German, and sometimes the script was complex for me to read. In those instances, I requested assistance from Thomas McCullough, who explained that item 1.220.3 was a memoir, and the remaining items on pages 220 and 223 in volume one discussed the funeral services held for Owen Joseph Rice. When it came to printed documents, I could roughly translate them using online tools such as Google Translate. The most enjoyable aspect of processing the Rice Collection was getting emotionally connected to each family member as I learned more about their story through each of the scrapbooks. Lastly, processing a collection from the start was rewarding because it was a completely new process that I never experienced before and that I could take full credit for.

In looking to the future after my degree, I have the newfound confidence in knowing that I have gained experience in collection development, even though it may be limited. While at the Moravian Archives, I had the opportunity to process a collection from the bottom up. As I move forward in my potential career as an archivist, I will frequently encounter experiences like this due to archival purchases, donations, and gifts. In terms of processing software, I had the opportunity to use Augias and will encounter similar programs in the future, such as ArchiveSpace. Lastly, I became more comfortable creating finding aids to make the collection accessible to researchers. Before my time at the archives, I only made a finding aid for a class I enrolled in over a year ago. After being allowed to create a finding aid for the Rice Collection, I am better prepared to make them for a variety of collections that I may encounter in the future.

To conclude my experiences, I want to thank everyone at the Moravian Archives for allowing me to intern at your facility for my degree. Being able to visit the archives was the highlight of each week and of my graduate degree at Pennsylvania Western University. I hope to volunteer again after my internship is over.