Out West student blog

Exploring History through the Yosemite Archives

Working in the Yosemite Archives on the flattening of several archival maps. (Photo Credit: Jessica Bitter).

By Julie Plummer '20

Hometown: Portola Valley, CA
Archives Intern, Yosemite National Park




Why did you want to do this internship?

The Yosemite Archives internship excited me because it was a position that would allow me to combine my interest in history with my love of the natural world. Working in the archives to learn about the history of such a beautiful part of our country was extremely enticing to me. I was also intrigued by the position because I have experienced working with archives from the researcher perspective in the past, but not really from the archivist perspective, processing materials first-hand.

How does your role support the host organization's mission?

In my role as an intern in the archives, I am helping to preserve the documentation of the park’s history though projects like entering background information on archival pieces. I am also contributing to the user experience side of the archive’s mission, since projects I’m working on such as digitization of historic photographs of the park make these photos much more widely available and useful to the general public.

How would you describe one of the projects you will be working on this summer?

One of the projects I’m excited to be working on this summer is the digitization of historical photographs. The Archives houses thousands of photos documenting the fascinating history of the park, and it’s neat to be able to work with these photographs and learn through them about this history. Recently, I’ve been working with photos that deal with park programs dating back to the 1930s, such as bird watching tours or auto caravans through the park. The photographs also document activities in the park that would definitely not take place today, such as visitors feeding bears out of their hands. It has been fascinating to compare this documentation with my own experience with modern day park programs.

How does this project relate to your studies and/or career goals?

I am truly appreciating the opportunity to study history in a different context than an academic one through this internship. Supplementing my history education at Stanford by working with primary materials in Yosemite is fascinating and gives me good perspective on how historic materials are preserved. Because the archives are very connected to Yosemite’s museum, I’m also gaining perspective on how museums and archives interact with each other.

Has anything surprised you about the work, the organization, or the environment?

Even though I’m working inside the archives most days, the wild outdoors is still a present part of my work! One of my first days in the office, my coworker made a surprised noise as she found a live scorpion under a box of documents she was working through. There is a designated “bug rescue cup” in the office to deal with such incidents. Something I’ve appreciated is that my supervisor makes sure I have time to get to know the park as well; during my first week on the job I was given time to explore the Valley and become more connected with the lands I'm researching all day.

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