Fredericton Faculty of Arts

Becoming a Historian Jessica s Experience as an Arts Intern

Author: Fredericton Arts

Posted on Dec 3, 2015

Category: Arts , Other , Research , Spotlight , Student

"The only way to drive ourselves forward is by looking in the rear-view mirror and guessing the best course to take." – Mark Damen

Hello Everyone!

This will be the first of many future blog posts where I will be sharing my experiences as an Arts Intern at The Milton F. Gregg Center for the Study of War and Society at UNB. This blog series will include reflections on my many adventures at Gregg Centre events as well as comments on my discoveries doing research in the archives, special collections, and online databases. I will be discussing my role as an intern and how rewarding it has been to work at the Gregg Centre thus far.

When I enrolled in the Arts Internship Program at the beginning of this semester, I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know that I would be given the opportunity to "be" a historian during my undergrad! Acceptance into the Internship Program has literally transformed my day to day experience at UNB. I have gone from being an undergraduate history and anthropology student to researching like a professional historian. My internship at the Gregg Center has provided me with the ability to pursue my own research questions, formulate my own arguments, and support my research, while working alongside the very same people that write the historical material that I study in class today.

Aligned with the mission, strengths and values of the Gregg Centre, my internship has taken the form of a major research project. For the past three months, I have been researching historical sources from the First and Second World Wars to develop material for the Gregg Centre’s educational outreach program. For this research, I have been analyzing the information that I have gathered and writing reports on my discoveries. The result of my project will be the creation of an intimate perspective on Carleton County's war experience in the form of a research paper and the development of templates to demonstrate how students and teachers can conduct similar research.

During my internship, I have spent a considerable amount of time examining historical sources and materials that demonstrate the impact of war on Carleton County. Some of the materials I have reviewed include local newspapers, the Carleton County cenotaph, the Woodstock Armory Archives, and the service files of two individual soldiers from the community. By using these archival sources, Special Collections of the Harriet Irving Library, and online databases such as the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website, I have collected information, linked discoveries to one another and cross-referenced the information to answer my research questions. Analyzing the information that I have discovered has helped me to ensure that the historical documents I use are accurate. Being critical of my sources has made me aware of the many factors that influence biases within historical sources and how they affect my interpretation of the past.

Carleton County Cenotaph

Studying the past through this process of hands on research has been extremely exciting and rewarding. I have come to realize that each source indicates something different about the past, and it is my job as the historian to determine its significance. Similarly, engaging in historical research has forced me to examine what exactly it means to be a historian and has demonstrated how history enables us to ask meaningful questions. My time spent in the archives, head bent over boxes and folders full of century old documents has shown me that researching a historical issue is similar to detective work. Historians discover each clue of the past and put all the pieces of the puzzle together to answer a research question. The suspense related to stumbling upon a great historical source, and the excitement felt during discovery is what makes my internship research such an enjoyable endeavor.

Besides these revelations, I have also gained a deeper understanding of the value of historical research. What resonates heavily with me is the fact that as a historian, you constantly learn something new about humanity. Throughout history, society is always changing. By striving to understand the past we seek out where we have come from, where we have been, where we are going, and how we can make change in the present. Therefore, the most rewarding aspect of my internship thus far is being equipped with knowledge gained from the past that can guide me in the present and help me predict what may occur in the future.

by Jessica Hinton