Name: Julia Browning
Class Year: 2025
Major: Literatures in English
Minor: Film and History of Art
Hometown: Tolland, CT
Internship Organization: Founder's Hall Museum at Girard College
Job Title: Archival Collections Intern
Location: Philadelphia, PA
What's happening at your internship? We would love to hear what kind of work you are doing!
At Founder's Hall, I've been doing a lot of archival work within the collection, especially with the museum's compendium of papers related to the school's founder, Stephen Girard. Girard was a wealthy merchant, banker, and philanthropist who ran a global shipping empire from the 1790s until the 1830s, and kept detailed records related to his business practices. I've been helping to sort, take notes on, and analyze many of the shipping papers in order to create an archival database (and corresponding statistical analysis) of the information that we know about most of the merchant mariners who worked on his ships. Because most of the sailors were working-class people whose names are typically left out of historical records, gathering this information allows us to start to uncover hidden stories and be able to further understand what the maritime world of early Philadelphia was like.
Why did you apply for this internship?
I wanted to gain more experience working within a museum's archives, especially after a project that I worked on for one of my Haverford classes last year. As part of my class Race, Realism, and Photography, we were asked to choose a photo by Harlem photographer James Van Der Zee, one from Haverford's Special Collections, and write a caption or an item label for it. After doing a lot of research for the project within the archive, I became super interested in collections-related work and wanted to spend my summer working in a museum.
What has been your favorite part of this internship?
My favorite part of my internship so far has been being able to work with so many different documents from the 1700 and 1800s. It feels super special to be able to physically handle the papers themselves, and to get to read about so many different experiences and stories. I've also really enjoyed the challenge that has come with trying to decipher sailors' messy scrawls of handwriting, or trying to figure out how to sort undated documents into a chronological timeframe.
What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn't expect?
I've ended up learning a lot of different skills related to statistics and data analysis, as well as how to use programs like Excel and Google Sheets, which I didn't originally anticipate working with. My project relies on using spreadsheets in order to compile the archival information that I've collected in a clear and easily readable way, so I've ended up learning about a lot of different Excel shortcuts in order to process the data, as well as different tools for data analysis.
Visit the Summer Internship Stories page to read more about student internship experiences.