Manuscripts, Documents, and Journals - Oh My!

Journal by Charles Bonaventure Scully, 1843.


Manuscripts, Documents, and Journals - Oh My!

Museum Studies Intern at Archives Service Center – Spring 2020

For as long as I can remember, I’ve simply loved old things. I started at a young age by watching history documentaries with my parents and reading books on Egyptology. Later on, I began to collect old things.  My book collection is now at almost 60 books, with some from as early as the 1730s. My love of “old things” has always driven me to ask questions about the past and look at primary sources to see first-hand what was happening in the era I’m studying. While working at the University’s Archives Service Center this past semester, I tried to do exactly that.

I worked on Polish in Western Pennsylvania, a collection a with multiple subseries, and focused on the Polish Societies section. The collection needed to be streamlined  to be more widely used by professors for research. I began by going through the six boxes in the series to become familiar with the many Polish societies in the Pittsburgh area and their wide influence. Just within the Lawrenceville area, there were about 3 separate chapters of the Polish Falcons of America Society. 

After I did a first look through the materials, which consisted of documents from as early as 1916 and as recent as the 1990s, I sorted through and organized documents from the Societies subseries in Polish in Western PA Collection. I developed a plan to move the documents around and re-foldered them so they could be more easily used in future research, a kind of overhaul of the subseries. The amount of materials I had to go through was at times daunting, but I knew that by organizing this subseries, I was giving this collection a better chance of educating the public. I learned how to use Archivist Toolkit, a program the Archives Service Center uses for creating the online finding aids for the collections. I worked on updating the finding aid and making it more specific with my new organization of the folders, although it has not been published yet.

Although my work this semester was interrupted due to COVID-19, there was actually a silver lining. I had a very interesting opportunity to do more than one project. I am now working on a transcription of the diary from 1843 by a man named Charles Bonaventure Scully, a local collector, lawyer, and Pitt graduate. Back when Scully attended the university, it was still called the Western University of Pennsylvania. His diary was fascinating in that it gives a glimpse into the daily life of a man from more than 150 years ago.

Throughout this semester, I was able to work at the most basic level of the Archives and see the functioning of a research center. I had no idea how deep the Polish roots were in Pittsburgh and just how important these societies were to the basis of the city. My work this semester made me realize that my love of collections and old things could become more than just a hobby— it could be my career. We need collections in order to preserve human history.

  • Academic Interns
  • Undergraduate Work
  • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh