For the sixth year in a row, St. Michael’s Church has proudly participated in the New York City History Student Summer Internship program. In this city-wide program administered by the Deputy Borough Historian of Manhattan, students with particular gifts and interests in history are identified by their high school principals and nominated for this internship. Students are then matched with museums, libraries, historic houses, history societies and specialized archival collections; working on special projects, they spend four to six weeks under the mentorship of an archivist, learning how to handle, catalog and interpret a wide variety of archival materials.
A rising junior at Stuyvesant High School, Christopher Echevarria-Smith assisted in filing and cataloging service bulletins, Messengers, special event notifications and rectors’ pastoral communications from the 1970s forward. He also assisted in the transcription of 19th century financial records and the completion of an early 20th century legal file.
Archival work presupposes flexibility of temperament: sometimes it requires mental concentration and sometimes it’s like a specialized form of housework. It can be both intellectually and physically demanding, especially when a collection is expanding or being fully cataloged.
Past interns have worked on important and useful projects such as the development of a database of pre-Civil War African-Americans listed in St. Michael’s sacramental registers, a database of orphans at the Leake and Watts Orphanage baptized during Thomas McClure Peters’ rectorship, and a chronological file of leases for St. Michael’s downtown properties from the 1860s to the 1920s.
All of these projects completed by student interns enable students to understand what primary sources actually are; they learn what “history” looks like before it ends up in textbooks. In addition, these students’ projects put individual elements of St. Michael’s dense and complex collection into an accessible, catalogable format; this work is invaluable when historians, fellow-archivists and genealogists address inquiries to St. Michael’s and to the Archivist.