Molly Shannon - American Philosophical Society’s Center for Digital Scholarship
Molly Shannon - American Philosophical Society’s Center for Digital Scholarship

Living History

Molly   Shannon

Class of 2020 • Chatham, New Jersey
Ever since she was a young girl, Molly Shannon has been fascinated by history, especially the many different perspectives and voices that can be heard within major events such as the American Revolution and the women’s suffrage movement. But this red-headed Anglophile—lover of tea and castles—is also drawn to Scottish history.


During a semester abroad at the University of St. Andrews in the spring of 2018, Molly enjoyed academically rigorous history classes that required a lot of independent study and allowed her to see where history had been made. “I had the amazing opportunity to learn about Scottish and medieval history from leaders in the field while traveling to historical sites including castles such as Dunottar and Iona,” Molly says.

She also made some fantastic friends—one of whom joined her for a round of golf on the Old Course.

But the best part of her study abroad experience was getting to travel and explore her heritage. She visited family members in the countryside, popped in to see Sir Walter Scott’s house and Melrose Abbey, and returned again and again to Edinburgh, where she ate at the Elephant House—the café where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. During a two-week spring break spent visiting Prague, Vienna, Oslo, and Stockholm, she says, “I had the fantastic chance to visit a palace in almost every city!”

While she was abroad, Molly successfully applied for an internship with the Morris County Historical Society near her home in New Jersey. There, while helping to develop the exhibit Iconic Culture: From the Little Black Dress to Bell Bottoms: 1920-1979, she got to work with archival materials for the first time as she prepared exhibit labels, created timelines, and curated a list of famous people who frequented Morris County—where the New York elite vacationed in the early twentieth century and where the telegraph was invented.

After that internship experience, Molly was ready for the big leagues: an Explore America internship at the American Philosophical Society’s Center for Digital Scholarship in Philadelphia. Sponsored by the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, Molly spent last summer digitizing and transcribing eighteenth-century ledgers as part of the Benjamin Franklin Postal Records Project for an Open Data Initiative.  

“These records can tell you a lot about who lived in 18th century Philadelphia,” Molly says. “For me one of the most fascinating things was simply where the mail was going and where it was coming from. We talked about quantitative history in my junior seminar—using data and graphs to understand history—and that’s really what I learned to do over the summer.”

Molly intends to work in the field before pursuing graduate studies for a Master of Library Science. She’s casting a wide net, looking for positions in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Boston, and even Minneapolis.

“As a history major you have to be willing to spread your wings,” she says. “It’s terrifying and exciting at the same time to think that I only have a semester and a half left here. Overall, Washington College has been everything I expected and more. Aside from its amazing academic credentials, I chose Washington College because of its association with George Washington, its reputation for excellence, and its supportive community. It’s been a great place for me.”


Molly's Four Year Plan

Year 1

Favorite Class "Making Meaning in Museums"

“In this class, I got to learn the theory, history, and practice behind museum policies and institutions and apply them at the same time.” 

Year 2

The A-ha! Moment Doing Historical Research

“I wrote a research paper on the 17th Amendment's ratification and its electoral effects, which reaffirmed my dream of a career in history when I discovered a gap in the historiography and was able to cover it using research. Last spring, I was able to present this paper at the Phi Alpha Theta Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference.” 

Year 3

Road Trip Colonial Williamsburg

“Junior year was fantastic. In the spring I was able to take a Chesapeake Regional Studies class focusing on the American Revolution where we went to Colonial Williamsburg over spring break and got to try blacksmithing and tinsmithing. We also spoke with living-history experts.” 

Year 4

Looking Forward ToWhat Comes Next

“I've mostly been focused on exploring future career options in libraries and archives while completing my graduation requirements and my SCE on the Monroe Doctrine. I’ve also enjoyed being part of the Wilbur Hubbard Collection Team with the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.”