Insights From Yosemite’s Archives

Like grandchildren rummaging through an attic trove of photographs, Student Conservation Association interns at Yosemite National Park recently began to sort, scan, and share decades-old photos from the park’s past. The Yosemite Conservancy spotlights their efforts in this video, and the excerpted Q&A below. 

CHELSEA BRIGHT, 24, Mesa, Arizona

Q: What drew you to this internship? 

A: The history. I have a background in archaeology, so I like to physically handle material culture and figure out the context around it. I would like to work in museums, so was attracted to the idea of improving accessibility to the resources in the archives. Archival work and curatorial work are closely related, so I wanted to be able to learn as much as possible about how to handle and care for something as fragile as paper. Also, I’m used to Classical history, so I wanted to see how one attempts to reconcile the history of a modern place from many perspectives.

KAT CONNELLY, 23, Bloomfield, CT

Q: What have you learned about the park so far? 

A: This project allows me to view the park’s history through a series of moments, through photographs of buildings, individuals, events, and more. It’s a unique way to learn about Yosemite through the lenses of people across nearly a hundred years.

OLIVIA SWARTHOUT, 18, Bozeman, MT

Q: What has surprised you about this internship? 

A: Archives work is much more complex than I imagined. Although many documents and artifacts could be considered “historical,” an archivist must decide whether a collection belongs in their particular archives (or even in any archives), figure out how to organize the materials, and then prepare them to be stored and accessed for future use. Archivists put a lot of effort into maintaining the original intent of a collection by never separating or re-ordering materials — even something as seemingly simple as the order of documents can contain important clues about a collection’s origins and creator.

See more at the Yosemite Conservancy…