NAU internship provides historical and practical insights

Ofelia Zepeda

     By Ofelia Zepeda
     Reilly intern at Cline Library’s Special Collections and Archives

It is easy to think of an archive as a place where manuscript items are donated and sometimes forgotten. However, archives represent people and their stories; their stacks are full of history.

For instance, The Fred Harvey Collection in NAU’s Special Collections spans 96 years and tells the story of a man credited with creating the first restaurant chain in the U.S. It is a vast 24-linear feet, comprised of over 2,000 folders, around 5,000 images and contains the history of many individuals. My goal as the Reilly intern is to promote and humanize his historic company, to tell its stories through creation of digital and physical exhibits.

Will Rogers once said that Fred Harvey kept the West in food and wives. I cannot speak to the wives part of the quote, but in my experience, Fred Harvey still has a way of bringing people together over a good meal.

From La Posada to the Grand Canyon, I have met many impassioned individuals who hold Fred Harvey close to their hearts.

The other archivists and I have experienced the shared delight of discovering a unique item such as Zane Grey’s entry into the guest register of El Tovar where he honeymooned, or finally finding the perfect Harvey map to include in the exhibit. This internship has been an adventure in the archives and the Colorado Plateau.

A Harvey girl pours some famous Harvey coffee at the El Ortiz lunch counter in Lamy, New Mexico, frequented by train passengers. Photo from NAU's Special Collections.
A Harvey girl pours some famous Harvey coffee at the El Ortiz lunch counter in Lamy, New Mexico, frequented by train passengers. The image is part of NAU’s Special Collections and will be part of a Fred Harvey exhibit debuting in October.

Even though I have taken some amazing graduate courses, no class can provide the real-life experience I have acquired at Cline Library. I have learned so much more about research, digitization, information organization and management, but working with the archivists has been the most useful aspect of my internship. Sometimes, archivists may prefer working in the stacks, myself included, but Cline’s archivists have emphasized that we need to be as accessible as our collections– we are advocates.

The Fred Harvey exhibit opens Friday Oct. 16, 2015 and will be open to the public Monday Oct. 19, 2015. The exhibit will be available for viewing through Aug. 31, 2016 in Special Collections on the second floor of Cline Library. Weekday hours are 9 a.m. through 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Fridays.

The Elizabeth M and P.T. Reilly internship is a competitive 40-hour per week position, designed to provide hands-on archival and exhibition experience. Zepeda spent her internship working on the upcoming Fred Harvey Exhibit.