Student Barbara Morgan Travels to Seattle for NARA Internship

Community Profile

iSchool student Barbara Morgan lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, a 30 minute drive from the nearest gas station. But that didn’t stop her from lining up a prestigious summer internship with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

During early June, Morgan started a 10-week internship at NARA’s Seattle office, where she will focus primarily on tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs land documents from 1958 to 1960. The full-time paid internship, outlined in a 20-page syllabus, also requires her to write five essays reflecting on her experience, compile a portfolio of her work, and volunteer at a non-profit organization. Morgan chose to volunteer at the American Indian Health Clinic.

“Although there is a lot of work to do, this internship will prepare me for government work as an archivist at NARA, the Smithsonian, or the Library of Congress,” said Morgan, who expects to graduate in May 2011. “By the end of summer, I will have preserved more than 150 cubic feet of documents. Not a small feat!!”

Morgan’s interest in archives began when she attended the National Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums Conference in Portland, Ore., last fall. She met representatives from different tribal communities, and “the idea of language, oral history, and ceremonies as part of tribal archives appealed to me instantly,” Morgan said.

Morgan is a member of the Oglala Sioux Nation from Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She says that she appreciates the potential that archives can play in helping to strengthen current and future generations’ knowledge of “who they are as a people.”

“As many of our elders are passing on, having an archive of our language, culture, and traditions ensures a strong and vital connection to our traditions,” she said.

Morgan, 53, dropped out of school at age 16 and obtained her GED years later. Then she started taking community college classes and, although she “always assumed I was not smart enough to go to school,” she thrived academically, ultimately earning an undergraduate degree in psychology from California State University Sacramento (CSUS).

She was accepted to 15 different PhD programs. At the time she was working at the CSUS library and really loved her job, and didn’t think she wanted to spend the next six years devoted to psychology. So she decided to apply to iSchool based on the recommendation of a colleague who was taking iSchool classes.

Morgan learned about the NARA internship through the Washington Center, where she filled out an application and submitted an essay and background check. “There is so much to do in this internship, but at the same time I am learning how the government operates, the checks and balances, and the importance of being a civil servant,” she said.