Here, readers, is another post from Allie, a student volunteer whose work helped us this past summer. Allie, the floor is yours:
Hello readers, this summer I spent the months of June and July interning at the Mariner’s Museum Library in Newport News and working on the Battle of Hampton Roads Grant. As a history major, I am looking into various career possibilities and working with archives is one of those options. I worked with a great many fascinating items over the summer but my favorite piece by far was a simple letter written from a man named Francis DuCoin to the main collector of the documents I was dealing with, Ernest Peterkin. The letter was the one piece that really struck me because I think that it captures the real purpose and importance of having an online catalog of the materials in the archives.
Francis DuCoin was a man living in Jensen Beach, Florida in 1984 and who had a passion for the U.S.S. Monitor. He wrote to Peterkin often, passing along information he had gathered through studying the ship and asking Peterkin for any news or material he had gathered himself. In the letter I have chosen DuCoin writes that it has been a year since they last wrote to one another and that he has had no real news on the Monitor apart from a small newspaper article and a segment on nightline. He asks if Peterkin ever published any of the books he was working on and for the results of an expedition to the ship’s site. DuCoin goes on with detailed questions about the expedition and asks for measurements of the ship in order to build a model.
The reason this letter was my favorite piece to work with was because it really shows why having an online catalog is so important for people like Francis DuCoin who live far away and do not have the ability to come view documents in person. This gives real meaning to the work I spent doing throughout the summer. By cataloging and helping in the effort to digitize the numerous records available in these collections, the Library is expanding the number of people who will be able to view the documents and people like Francis DuCoin will have all the information at their fingertips. Most of all, the document shows how different access to information has become over the thirty years since DuCoin wrote this letter.
What Allie didn’t know is that Fran DuCoin was, and is, a great friend of the Monitor and continues to come and help with the work nearly every summer.