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American history student lands Library of Congress internship

Kevin Hartnett '10 works with stacks of documents from the 19th century.
Kevin Hartnett '10 works with stacks of documents from the 19th century.

As an intern in the Rare Book and Special Collection Department at the Library of Congress, Kevin Hartnett '10 has had the opportunity to handle and read books and letters with handwritten notes by such historical figures at Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau and Susan B. Anthony.

An American history major and American studies minor, Hartnett is interested in the colonial era through the end of the Reconstruction in 1877. His position couldn't be more perfect. "Last spring I took a class called 'Narratives of Illness' in which we studied the history of medicine in the United States focusing on such topics as medical authority and the patient's experience and how they have changed over time. Many of the documents I have classified at the Library of Congress directly relate to the emerging medical issues and treatments that were available and advertised during the second half of the nineteenth century," Hartnett said.

With the help of Assistant History Professor Jim Downs, Hartnett plans to conduct independent research next semester using these documents. "It is my job to organize, catalog and re-house materials that were submitted for copyright during the 1870s," Hartnett says. "I interact with the chief of Rare Books and Special Collections as well as the American history specialist within the department on a daily basis, and I frequently have the opportunity to attend lectures and workshops pertaining to the library's collections and preservation techniques."

In Washington, D.C., Hartnett is staying with his brother and sister-in-law (both Connecticut College graduates) and says he has found a home away from home. He even plays for an adult baseball league and hangs out with other Connecticut College students who are also interning in D.C.

Hartnett credits Connecticut College's funded internship program for the opportunity to work in the world's largest library. "Without the CELS program and financial support, I would not have been able to accept this position," Hartnett says.

July 24, 2009