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Anthony McDonnell: My Summer of Research and Writing at PHS

August 19, 2019
In the depths of the PHS Archives Annex, August 2019.

I first became aware of interning at the Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) via the liberal arts Honors program at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP); specifically, it was mentioned by Honors professor Dr. Brian Seymour. After my class visited PHS on a spring field trip, I decided I would indeed enjoy interning there over the summer, exploring the atmosphere and technicalities of working in an archive or research library, as those are two things I am very much interested in. There was a more quotidian reason, too: I needed something to occupy myself during the summertime. 

Bound newspapers in the PHS library, August 2019. Photo by Anthony McDonnell.

Reshelving a book used in Ireland/Catholicism blog post, August 2019.

Over the course of the summer I had to write three different blog posts minus this one: a post on Dwight D. Eisenhower and his relationship to Presbyterianism, one on some signed photos of senators addressed to the Reverend Edward L.R. Elson of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C., and one on the relationship between the conflict in Northern Ireland and past attitudes of Protestants towards Catholics in the United States. The blog post on Northern Ireland and Catholicism required a lot of research and synthesis of sources in particular. The history of the conflict in Ulster is a long and complicated one, and the research helped me understand the process of intense research, vis-a-vis selecting supporting items and poring over them; further, it also helped me contextualize parts of my identity as an Irish American. I can say with some braggadocio that the final product feels like a triumph. Earlier in the summer I learned a lot of fun facts about Eisenhower to potentially annoy my friends with, and the photos of sitting senators circa 1980 were gorgeously glossy.

Browsing through senatorial photographs with Fred, August 2019. 

Lisa (left) and Jenny helped me conduct research in the PHS Reading Room, August 2019. Photo by Anthony McDonnell.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my work throughout this somewhat exhausting summer. I have done much interesting research and I’ve been privileged to pore over so many interesting artifacts and documents. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone here: Fred, Kristen, David, Gabriela, and many others. Jenny, Charlene, and Lisa were very kind in the ways they in helped me organize my research, and Allison and Cecelia did a great job digitizing photos and pamphlets for my blogs. I hope that other young people -- Presbyterian or not -- are encouraged to apply for an internship at the Presbyterian Historical Society or to use its resources for their independent scholarship.

-- Anthony McDonnell is a summer intern at the Presbyterian Historical Society. A recent graduate of the Community College of Philadelphia, Anthony will be enrolling at Temple University in the fall of 2019. His work is a part of the Building Knowledge & Breaking Barriers project. You can check out his other posts here.