Early internship thoughts

I’m interning twice a week at the APS. I was really on the fence: I wanted to do an internship in general and was excited about the APS specifically…but I’ve really been enjoying spending so much time with The Daughter and I thought bumping the internship back to next year might make more sense logistically. But two days is a good balance. It’s doubtless a net good that I get some time both out of the house and detached from the baby; I hadn’t yet gone stir crazy, and perhaps this will function as an inoculation. She seems to be enjoying daycare, and spending extended time with kids her own age is probably good for The Daughter. The Spousal Unit is enjoying dropping her off and picking her up after work. I’ve been enjoying the internship thusfar. I have been doing intern-appropriate tasks (data entry and labeling) but have not gone crazy because I am, in fact, an intern.

I have never worked in a place where I had a badge that actually did anything. Part of me finds it neat; part of me finds it theatrical and therefore annoying and offensive; part of me starts thinking about security subversion (there were some fun examples in last semester’s class); part of me doesn’t think about it (which either means I have internalized it as a perfectly sensible method for addressing security concerns or that I am a sheep noncritically adapting to her pasture).

I did wonder if the hierarchical security (not everybody can swipe themselves everywhere) would feed into APS culture and create something stuffy and negative. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Admittedly, I haven’t been there very long—and I have been reading Peter Watts on pubtrans, so perhaps my perspective on sociable co-workers is skewed—but everyone’s been friendly and it seems like a generally non-dysfunctional workplace. I also like that chocolate spontaneously appears in the break room.

Bastille Day was noted but not celebrated. In retrospect, I am a little surprised that DVAG, at least, did not go “Huzzah, modern archives.” I suppose Schellenberg’s birthday is not a discipline-wide holiday, either.

The touristy nature of the area is weird. There are tour buses and guides and the occasional person in costume and in the afternoons there’s a drummer outside to rile up passersby against the British. It is mildly disconcerting, because there is part of me that still considers “Philadelphia” the place where one gets off at Suburban to have lunch with one’s boyfriend, who works in one of the taller parts of the skyline…except if one is thinking of “Philadelphia” as the historical construct, a mental exercise that is, by definition, un-visitable.

Historical tourism is something reserved, in my mind, for either limited, museum-quality places (e.g. a building, frozen in amber so that the relevant period can be reproduced, with no modern-day business aside from that necessitated by the reproduction) or kitschy theme-park style concoctions (e.g. how I imagine Colonial Williamsburg feels, or the half-remembered Erie Canal village). So the interspersed tourist attractions are somewhat disconcerting to me.

My reaction is further complicated by the fact that Philadelphia just isn’t that old. It’s old enough for there to be layers, of course, but it’s not seriously old. Spelling conventions have changed, but languages haven’t turned over. The canvas was erased, intentionally and otherwise, so there’s a quick jump from “anthropology” to “early modern” in the standard historical record.

All of the houses I’ve lived in have been built in the twentieth century—the current one, built in the ’30s, is the oldest and still built comfortably within living memory—and though Bryn Mawr dates to the nineteenth century and my current township to the seventeenth neither feels old in that weighty way I felt in Europe (which is doubtless informed by my foreignness and some romanticism and a host of other factors I’m less consciously aware of). So the idea of a place (lat and long plus the z-axis of mental construction) I inhabit also being worthy of examination simply because it’s old…is alien. Complicated by the fact that it’s not, of course, simply a matter of “old” but war and patriotism and a bunch of other impulses I can’t approve of unreservedly…and that even the less trumpeted factors (Enlightenment, political discourse, Daniel Waterstone made flesh) are deeply problematic in ways that are either ignored or handwaved in a way that would be fine if they did actually get sidebarred rather than sidetracked or relegated to the concern of academics or special interests…

And now I seem to’ve entered rambling mode. Rather than reorganize some of the random thoughts in a more coherent fashion, I believe I will simply sign off.

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  1. Pingback: On the age of places « Owls all the way

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