The Fairbanks House
posted July 10, 2013 8:15 AM by Katie Sallade
This summer, in addition to working a full-time job, I'm working as an intern at the Fairbanks House on Fridays and Saturdays. I'm not taking this internship for credit - I decided not to take any classes this summer as I meant to devote more time to beginning my thesis, but I wanted to make sure my archival skills stayed fresh and if I could land an internship, it would look great on my resume.
Well, not only will this experience look great on my resume, but it is quickly turning into something I look forward to each week. I worried that working longer hours Monday through Thursday and then going to an internship on Friday and Saturday would leave me worn out and wishing for more free summer days. This is definitely not the case. Going to the Fairbanks House does not feel like work - I'm having fun, and I'm finding that perhaps working at a historic house is more along the lines of what I want to do with my career. Why? Well, let me tell you...
The Fairbanks House is the epitome of awesome early American history. It is the oldest timber-framed house in America, and it was built between 1637-1641. As an intern, I have a specific archival project to work on, but I also get to give tours of the house. The curator, Meaghan Siekman, created a manual for each docent (volunteer) and intern with vital information about the house and the archive. I shadowed a few tours, gave a tour with Meaghan's help, and then finally began giving tours of my own. Telling people about the history of this house and the Fairbanks family is something I've become truly passionate about. The family built this house and then lived in it for generations - all the way up until 1904 when the family organization, the Fairbanks Family in America (FFA), bought the house and turned it into a museum. Thus, the items in this house, and the stories that have been passed down through generations, exemplify ordinary family life in America since before the country was founded. As a huge American history nerd, I am in awe of these details, and I hope I inspire that same awe in the visitors on my tours. For more information about the house, visit the website: http://www.fairbankshouse.org/index.html or Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fairbanks-House/129954507016357.
Besides tour giving, I am also working on the photograph collection at the Fairbanks House.
This photo is a picture of me, and two other interns (Matt and Donna) working on the collections. Over the years, many people, mostly descendants of the family, have donated items to the museum. However, only recently has the FFA started hiring professionals to be curators instead of family members. So, the archive is still in the beginning stages. Meaghan, the current curator, is reponsible for most of the progress on the archive, but none of the photographs have been inventoried or accessioned yet. Also, there aren't many records to indicate when the archive received materials or from whom. I've recently finished inventorying all of the photographs in the collection (I'd estimate there are about 500) and now I have to figure out an intelligent way to organize them into series in order for future researchers to effecitvely access them. It's an increasingly daunting task, but luckily Meaghan is very hands-on and we frequently discuss the best options for the collection. It's reassuring that she doesn't expect me to date the photographs exactly or determine who the individuals are in the photos (a lot of them are unidentified), but we are making strides to create an accessible collection. I'm excited to see how it turns out.