Students Share Scholarly Research at NARA

Many of our NARA colleagues are historians and researchers themselves. In this post, written by Lopez Matthews, we have the opportunity to learn about a few current research projects our staff members are undertaking. If you’d like more information on any of these projects, leave a note in the comments and we’ll make sure the appropriate archivist contacts you. Please note that the term “student employee” refers not just to an employee who is a student; rather, it is a category of employment.


On October 12, 2011, the National Archives Assembly (NAA) held the first annual National Archives Assembly Student Research Symposium at Archives II. The event was developed with the idea of the NAA supporting the NARA transformation pillar of “One NARA.” The event was open to both undergraduate and graduate students of any major who worked at NARA. Originally envisioned as a program for student employees, the NAA outreach committee, which includes Eliza Mbughuni, Andrea Shahmohammadi and I, quickly realized that the program should be expanded to include not only “student employees” but also those who are NARA employees and also students themselves.

By bringing together student employees and non-student employees in an educational environment, the symposium encouraged engagement and interaction that the committee believes will help to build camaraderie and encourage a feeling of connectedness between student employees, employees who are students and their other colleagues. Often, student employees are seen walking in the halls pushing carts or working on various projects in groups together. This event served as an opportunity for NARA staff to learn more about our student employees and learn about some of their research interests and work.

With outreach committee chair Lopez Matthews (RD-DC) serving as moderator for the event, the symposium began with a session focused on the African American family in documents and literature. Shanna Smith (RD-DC), a student employee in NARA’s customer service branch, presented Being Neighborly: Performance in Life History. In this presentation, Smith discussed the impact of journals and diaries in documenting the history of black women. Smith is a student in the American Studies Department at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD). The second presenter was another UMD student Erika Thompson (RD-DC) of the Still Pictures Branch. Thompson presented a paper titled Never Answered, Only Endured: the Black Family after the Civil War. Using the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, Thompson evaluated the effect of the war on the lives of African American families throughout the devastated Southern region of the United States.

Lopez Matthews, Outreach Committee chair with Shanna Smith, and Erika Thompson.

The next session focused the benefits of employment at NARA for students in library and information science programs. Masha Levin (RD-DC) a student employee in the Electronic Records Division at NARA and a student at Catholic University, presented a paper titled Practicums as Rotations at NARA . In the paper, she discussed how she parlayed her NARA employment into completion of a practicum require for her graduate study. The second presentation featured Charlotte Strum also of electronic records and a student UMD. In her presentation, Strum discussed her work in the HILS program at UMD in a paper titled Learning by Doing: Practical Projects in My First Year at the University of Maryland’s iSchool.

Lopez Matthews with presenters Masha Levin and Charlotte Strum.

The final session of the day featured members of NARA’s textual records division. Attracting the largest audience of the day, the session began with Archivist Tina L. Ligon, discussing Four Black Women who promoted industrial education in Cincinnati. Archivist Lloyd Beers who is currently working toward a PhD from UMD presented Psychological Ownership in the Archives Workplace. This presentation discussed the ideas of ownership that Archivists have relative to their archival collections and the need to control access to those documents. The final presentation of the day was given by Robert Finch a student employee in processing. His discussion of The Human Rights Movement in the Soviet Union and American Policymakers, focused on the human rights movement in Russia during the Cold War and its impact on American foreign policy. Finch is a student at UMD.

Lopez Matthews with presenters Lloyd Beers, Tina Ligon and Robert Finch.

One thought on “Students Share Scholarly Research at NARA

  1. Lopez- thank you and the others for putting this program together! The student employees are amazing both for the work they do at NARA everyday as well as the passion they have for the records and their stories!

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