As the final few days of the school year approached and the prospect of a jobless summer became a fast approaching reality, I worried what exactly the next three months would have in store. Luckily, a posting on Panther Connect, Chapman University’s online job and internship listing, happened to catch my eye–The Richard Nixon Foundation had a posting for summer research interns.
As a History major, the opportunity to pursue an internship at a museum, let alone a Presidential Library & Museum, is well worth the time to put together an application. Working at a presidential library had a strong appeal to me because of my own interest in presidents. In addition, as a writer for the Panther at Chapman covering Student Government, I also saw the internship as a chance to hone my writing skills. When I got the email from Ian, my advisor, offering me the research internship, I breathed a sigh of relief and became excited for what lay ahead of me.
Nearly two months later, I can safely say that the internship has been an eye opening experience. The sheer amount of correspondence within the Nixon administration on my topic, the peaceful desegregation of southern schools, was fascinating to discover. Before starting my internship, I had a shallow knowledge of the Nixon administration and was completely unaware of how substantial the problem of de facto segregation remained nearly fifteen years after the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education. It was startling that President Nixon’s achievement of leading the largest school desegregation effort in history was something I had never been taught in a classroom.
In addition, writing for the Nixon Foundation blog site has provided me with an opportunity to share something new each week, and provide a venue for my work to be published online. I also have found that the repeated task of researching a topic, finding relevant documents to include and then writing an article two times a week has enhanced my skills as a writer.
On a typical day, I check in shortly before 10 and then get settled in at a desk in the research room. On Wednesday’s I’ll arrive with a particular blog topic in mind and draft an outline of what I want to discuss in the article. While sometimes I already have the documents I want to include in the blog entry, I usually search for them the day I work on the article. Despite being somewhat intimidating upon first glance, the system in which the documents are archived is easy to follow, especially with the NARA staff there to answer my questions.
While not working on blog entries, I find myself sifting through a wide array of memos, speeches, reports and news articles in an effort to retrieve documents that either further explain or provide context for President Nixon’s efforts to desegregate southern schools. Although my advisor, Ian, provides guidance as needed, the interns are given a large amount of independence in the direction of our research.
The past few months have given me the opportunity to comb through thousands of documents, some of which President Nixon himself scrutinized in the oval office over forty years ago. This unique experience has proven to be a valuable tool in developing my ability to think critically, write efficiently and research effectively and I look forward to continuing my time as an intern at the Nixon Library & Museum.