Archives in Action
“I want to share my love of history,” says Denise Meehl ’15, a history major with a minor in secondary education. She had a chance to do just that during her internship, supported by a Comegys Bight Fellowship, at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., last summer. Her favorite part of the job was helping out in the Boeing Learning Center, where teachers and students participate in activities that introduce them to the Archives and its holdings and help them learn to work with primary documents.
“It made me think about how I will integrate primary documents into my classroom,” says Meehl, whose passion for history led her to co-found the Washington College History Society, of which she is co-president. “It was amazing to learn how many resources the National Archives and other museums have that are readily available and meant to be used.”
In the beginning, she’d had little idea what the National Archives stores in its landmark building north of the National Mall on Constitution Avenue. “I learned that it is actually known as Archives I,” she says. It holds some of the country’s most precious original documents, including the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, all on permanent display in the dimly lit Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. “But I learned that there are actually more than 40 facilities managed by the National Archives and Records Administration throughout the country.”
When she wasn’t working in the Learning Center or on the Information Desk, Meehl worked on a number of projects, including watching hundreds of videos to select the ones that might be useful for students participating in National History Day. “It was a tedious task at times, but I got to witness some important moments in history, such as the signing of the NATO treaty, the Nuremburg Trials and JFK’s funeral.”
She also helped with Fourth of July festivities at the Archives, choosing books for storytime and guiding visitors through playful educational activities.
“It was very rewarding, interacting with people, finding out a little about their lives, how they had come to visit the Archives,” she says. “I feel as if I learned new ways to share my love of history.”