Jessica Tieman '13: Internship of a Lifetime

Jessica Tieman’s combined love of history and literature recently came together thanks to a summer internship of a lifetime at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in St. Louis.

Jessica, a history and literature double major, is the first-ever “hands-on” intern in the NARA Preservation Department. She works specifically with the “B-files”, which are records salvaged in the aftermath of the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center. The fire destroyed 17-million records and left 6.5-million other records damaged by fire, mold, and water.

Photo of Jessica TiemanNARA’s St. Louis center is the second largest archival facility in the United States and holds an approximate capacity of 2.5 million cubic feet of records, most of which are temporary. Temporary records include military medical treatment records and Official Personnel Folders of former civilian Federal personnel who separated after 1973. Records that are kept permanently are considered “archival” and must be older than 62 years.

Jessica’s internship deals specifically with preservation, however she is also becoming aware of aspects of archiving such as digitization, information technology, conservation, restoration, management, etc. “I love having the trust of the preservation department to work with the actual records and treat them how I feel is best using my own judgment,” she said. “It is exciting to use my own knowledge to respond to records that have withstood disaster scenarios.”

The oldest documents Jessica has worked with have been from the World War I era.

“I have had an extremely rewarding experience during my internship at NARA,” she said. “It has thoroughly prepared me for my future goal of earning a graduate degree in library science with specializations in archives and rare-book collections.” Ultimately, Jessica would like to work in the conservation lab at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

Jessica credits her internship supervisor for encouraging her to learn about all aspects of the organization (NARA) as well as other opportunities outside of government-related careers. She is also grateful for the ongoing support from McKendree faculty and staff. “For all of the time they spent outside of the classroom giving me advice, writing letters of recommendation, and simply being great listeners whenever I doubted myself: I can’t thank them enough,” she said. “I’ve had the chance to make the most out of myself as a leader, a consumer, a voter, and a student.”