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Virtual Archives, Remote Study, Distant Farewells

By Abbey Search

First off, I should start off by saying that you may have seen my other blog posts about the Joseph Watras Collection — one about collection processing and the other about Dayton school desegregation interviews — but I will reintroduce myself: I am Abbey Search. I just finished my final semester in graduate school at Wright State University, and I also just completed my internship in the University Archives and Special Collections at the University of Dayton.

Finishing my internship in isolation has been one of the hardest things that I have had to do during my entire time in higher education, which has been a long six years. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s daily lives. Like many others, I started working and learning from home during March. I unfortunately at school had no time to say goodbye to my friends and at the time had no idea I would never see them in a classroom again. This was the first heartbreaker. Then the next week, I learned I would be finishing my UD internship from home, too. I was not prepared for this, especially since most of my has involved working with papers that I cannot take home with me every day. I had to gather as much paperwork as I could and take pictures of it so that I would be able to type the work I have already done into the database. This also meant that the work that I have been doing since I first started at UD would not be finished by me. This was another heartbreaker. Therefore, my time left at UD was spent doing all the computer work I could muster and trying to help the next person finish my project for me. 

I used spreadsheets and ArchivesSpace, which are what I consider the most boring part of working in an archive. Therefore, I went from doing something I found really interesting to doing something that was not in my realm of interest, which also put a damper on my mood. My office space changed drastically from a small office with a table specifically for my project to a tray table with a laptop my cat keeps trying to knock off, my dog keeps laying her head on, and keeps dying or freezing because my boyfriend and I are using all the Wi-Fi and electrical outlets in our small house. 

It was hard for me to focus on anything because of all the stress; on top of trying to finish my internship, my classes were online, and one of them became more of a burden than it had been when the class was face-to-face. My motivation was all gone. I could not wake up early to try to keep a schedule; I felt cooped up; I have not seen my family in over a month; and the fear of the unknown future was dragging me down. I have been applying to jobs, but employers are either cutting back or freezing hiring until the economy rebounds. The hardest thing for me to do was say goodbye to Kristina Schulz (archivist) and Amy Rohmiller (associate archivist) over Zoom. They supported me throughout my internship and helped me get situated to work throughout the pandemic. I am sad that I did not get to say goodbye in person. 

To those who have finished internships remotely or were supposed to start them and are unsure of their future, I want to say this: I am with you. I am currently looking for a job in this climate, and it is not easy. It adds stress to my life every day. I am nervous about the futures of museums and archives. I am nervous for my future. I am nervous for my fellow students who just graduated and do not have a place to go. I am nervous for the future of education, and I am nervous for the future of America.

The saddest thing is that I am not alone. I feel for all the students who are finishing school in these conditions, no matter the grade. If you have any questions about what I did during my project this year or just want someone to talk to about getting a master’s, doing an internship, coping with this entire pandemic situation, you can reach me at search.10@wright.edu.

In the gallery below are some interesting things I found while I was trying to gather my things to start working from home.

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