Sonia and David Oberman Archival Internship

 

A.M. Klein Election Flyer

A.M. Klein election flyer to be used in the JPL-A’s new education kits.

My name is Laura Markiewicz; I am a doctoral student in Information Studies at McGill University and recently I completed an internship  at the JPL-A. The Sonia and David Oberman Archival Internship was “right up my alley”, so to speak: using archival holdings to help students learn about their local community history. The specific project for this internship was assisting the Director, Shannon, in expanding the JPL-A’s educational workshops. I knew going in that it would be a challenge, because even though I am an archivist and I do have some high school teaching experience, I did not yet have experience putting together educational kits.  The learning curve is steep and this internship showed me what is involved. Luckily I enjoy challenges, and I enjoyed this one very much!

“Iterative” and “collaborative” are two words which best describe my experience as an intern. “Iterative” comes from the Latin “iter”, meaning “journey” and today has a connotation of “repetitive”. My internship involved constant reorientation, going back to the goals Shannon had outlined in the beginning, giving myself time to mull over ideas, and so on. At one point I felt rather stuck and no new ideas were coming. I realized I needed to use a different approach. After talking with Shannon and showing her what I had so far, I saw that I needed to start with the JPL-A’s holdings and work my way up from there. Up to then I had been looking at examples of other educational workshops using archives and trying to fit the JPL-A’s holdings into carbon-copies of these examples. I needed to take a “ground-up” approach where the workshops flowed from the specific documents in the Archives. For example, there are minutes from Federation CJA discussing problems facing immigrants after World War One, there are photographs showing everyday life of the Jewish community in Montreal, e.g. Yiddish signs in storefronts, and there are speeches and interviews from prominent Jewish politicians and activists. What do these documents tell us about the Montreal Jewish community at various points in time? To which activities would these documents and their information lend themselves? When those questions became my starting points, everything went more smoothly!

The educational workshops are a collaborative effort between Shannon and myself. An internship is all about learning, and I was not going to learn if I did not ask questions. Shannon was great about answering my questions, sharing what she’s learned in her experience as an archivist working with students and teachers, and giving me new ideas. What we came up with are mock electoral campaigns: using facsimiles or photographs of selected archival documents, high school students would learn about the Montreal Jewish community at different points in its history, create a political platform that would address the needs of the community at a specific point, and make campaign posters modeled after actual posters in the Archives. Depending on the particular school, these posters might be in English or Yiddish. In this way, these workshops become interdisciplinary, multimedia ways for students to explore the history and legacy of their local community.

The Sonia and David Oberman Archival Internship was created in 2014 and will continue to provide students and emerging professionals with opportunities to work with historically significant heritage materials from Jewish Montreal.  The Jewish Public Library Archives benefits enormously from this initiative; particularly in developing and creating bridges between the public and our archival materials, whether it is through the arrangement and description of collections or the creation of educational materials.  The Jewish Public Library thanks Sonia and David Oberman for their dedication to both this community’s heritage and its future generations.

 

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