Internship, Literary Archives, Literature

Diary of a Special Collections Intern: Week Eight

Week eight was my final week as an intern in the Special Collections department of Liverpool Hope University’s Sheppard-Worlock library and it proved to be very different from previous weeks. I had spent the last seven weeks researching, cataloguing, and compiling a database of rare material for the university’s History undergraduates to use in their dissertation research, but this week it was all about tying up loose ends, conclusions, reflections, and hopes for the future. This included leaving behind a record of my progress, problems, interesting entries, and how much more material can still be included in the project. By leaving these records, it enables my mentor from the History department, library staff, and staff from other departments not only to see exactly what I have been doing for two months, but it also provides them with information about what kinds of newly catalogued and uncatalogued material is housed by this wonderful treasure trove of a department that is sadly often neglected by undergraduates.

I decided to leave three main sets of notes and suggestions for the three members of staff who have the most interest in the project: my mentor from the History department, the member of staff from the English department who began the original project and has so kindly helped me throughout this internship, and the Special Collections librarian. I also left copies for several members of the library staff, including the library manager. Although my main focus has been on History texts, the last eight weeks have been about finding a balance between the three departments previously mentioned, allowing me the opportunity to demonstrate my flexibility and ability to multi-task in a new environment that is very different from my previous life in retail. These records and notes may also ensure the future expansion of what is a very valuable project for the History department and the library, and which could benefit other departments at the university in the near future.

I began the internship with the ultimate aim of being as useful possible by cataloguing and entering as much information as time permitted, and hopefully demonstrating that interns can be useful and proactive. However, Hope has taught me that internships should be about give and take, and so I also saw the position as a chance to re-awaken my dormant research skills for my own work on the early writings of Charlotte and Branwell Brontë, an opportunity to re-familiarise myself with the handling of rare and archival material, and also as a chance to learn how to function in a new environment after spending almost a decade working in retail in between degrees. I commented in my first internship diary that one of my managers in my retail job had made remarks about how I would be stuck making brews for people for eight weeks. A few weeks ago I had the satisfaction of telling him how wrong he was after informing him I had a provisional offer for a full time position elsewhere, a position in which I would be able to use the skills I had learned and awoken during eight weeks of my internship rather than eight years of retail.

Although I feel that I have put a solid foundation in place for the future of the database project at Hope and have actually been of some use as an intern, I can’t help feeling that I have taken so much more from the experience, including, most importantly of all, confidence in myself and my abilities which will certainly help me in the future. I also enjoyed a new level of responsibility and trust that I had failed to find during all my time in retail. Although I do not yet have a start date for my new job, I feel that the internship at Hope has equipped and prepared me for this role in ways that my old job could not. If you are a recent graduate or student unsure about your future, or perhaps you know somebody who is, then my advice would be to search for an internship, not just any internship, but a role in which you have a genuine interest and go for it, no matter what. Search for a role which suits you as it will provide you with valuable experience rather than just grades on your CV, and this is what employers value. My internship at Hope has really been an opportunity for me to unlock my potential and gain experience in many different areas. Anything that can give you hands on experience is a must and twenty first century internships definitely do this.

My internship was an absolute pleasure and it is an experience I will never forget. I would like to finish by thanking everybody at Liverpool Hope University who has taken the time to help me during my internship and to show you some photographs of my favourite finds including editions of the eighteenth century magazine, The Spectator (see below).

An early volume of John Milton’s Paradise Lost also fascinated me.


As did this early version of Ben Jonson’s works, containing his play The Poetaster, later adapted by a young Charlotte Brontë as part of her Glass Town saga.

I also found numerous examples of printers’ ornaments in many different volumes.



I also found many beautiful inhabited and historiated initials within the volumes and some examples can be found below.

And here are some examples of the wonderful and fascinating ephemera I found, including Thomas Abbot’s miniature book which rivals those of the Brontës (see below).

The remarkably well-preserved 1821 edition of The Blackburn Mail

And these beautiful bookplates


These images appear with the kind permission of Liverpool Hope University. Please do not copy or share any of the images from this post.


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