Students or recent graduates with a reading knowledge of German are encouraged to apply for unpaid archival internships at the Leo Baeck Institute, located at the Center for Jewish History in New York. Knowledge in disciplines such as library science, archival studies, history, Jewish studies or other humanities and social sciencesis are welcome.
The LBI is committed to work with the applicant’s academic advisor to ensure that the internship counts as credit toward a degree.
The bulk of the intern’s duties consist of accessioning and/or processing archival collections to facilitate research. Most of the collections the LBI holds are family collections that document the life or a period in the lives of certain individuals. The creation of finding aids is considered the key component in the work of an archival intern at the LBI.
In the first step the material donated needs to be identified, classified and put in an order that makes it accessible for researchers. The collections consist of primary sources such as documents, letters and postcards, old newspaper clippings, and photographs as well as objects and art items. The second step is the actual writing of the finding aid. In the finding aid, the intern describes the material and the arrangement that was made, allowing researchers to understand the topics addressed in the collection. The finding aid also includes a biographical note about the individuals represented in the collection. Please see some examples of completed Leo Baeck Institute finding aids here.
At times, the intern may encounter fragile and rare items in the archival collections, which they remove for preservation measures. In some cases, interns learn basic conservation techniques that they can perform themselves.
Additional tasks performed by interns include:
- Answering reference and research requests.The intern sometimes performs research in order to locate requested materials, often communicating several times with patrons all over the world to ascertain precisely what they require and fulfill the requests.
- Answering reproduction and permissions requests. Often researchers, museums or other people approach the Institute to get the permission to reproduce or use an image or other material that the LBI archives hold (e.g. for publications or exhibitions).
- Paging archival and library materials for patrons using the Institute’s research facility. In order to page in the archives, the intern is required to learn the complex system by which archival collections are organized, in addition to being well organized so that material is removed and re-shelved in correct order and placement.
- Providing assistance in preparing art and archival material for exhibition loans to museums. He or she works closely with the archivists and the registrar to locate and prepare for shipping objects desired by museums or other institutions for exhibitions.
Through the many different tasks interns get a broad insight into the LBI archives and its collections. Through this work interns also learn about German-Jewish history in a personal perspective, and the political realities of the late 19th and 20th centuries on a micro-level.
Basic reading knowledge of German is required. Knowledge of any other language e.g. Yiddish or Hebrew, is helpful but not necessary. The spoken language at the office is English, but some of the staff is fluent in German.
Interns are asked to work 38 hours per week. Daily transportation within New York City is remunerated. Furthermore, interns have free entrance to most museums in New York City and many other events. These include the many events hosted by the LBI and Center for Jewish history, which they are welcome to join (you can have a look at the center’s calendar to get a sense of the events that take place). As the internship is unpaid, we do not expect our interns to stay long-term, but we request a minimum commitment of three months.
You are welcome to send us your application any time. For foreign applicants we would strongly advise you to apply at least four months before the start of the internship, as the process of obtaining a visa takes time. For a smooth application process, we recommend you send us your documents six months in advance.
To apply please e-mail your resume and cover letter to Michael Simonson at firstname.lastname@example.org.