For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.
Name: Chris Bertolini
Title: Summer 2022 State Government Records Research Intern
Home Institution: University of Alabama at Birmingham
Major: Master of Arts in History
What are you working on day-to-day during this internship?
I’m chronologizing the interactions between the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) and other state agencies. My supervisors give me a bundle of memos, emails, correspondence, state government records destruction notices, and other official documents from each agency from which I try to create a coherent timeline. This takes somewhere between thirty minutes and fifty hours depending on the size, age, and activities of the respective agency. I also make spreadsheets to document the permanent records that each agency has transmitted to the ADAH. I work remotely, which is pretty cool.
What is the most fun part of this internship? What is the most challenging part?
I always like reading documents authored by my coworkers – I assume it’s a similar feeling to having famous friends. On a practical level, it’s been good to learn just how many documents and collections the ADAH maintains. Aspiring historians should never fear having nothing to write about. Lastly, I love reading the sample documentation provided by each agency. These run the gamut from standardized bureaucratic reports to righteous, furious correspondence. Whatever floats your boat, there is something here to read about!
The most challenging part has been trying to develop the microscopic eye for detail required for this work. It’s way too easy to misinterpret – or just miss – the purpose of a document, especially if it’s a long memo or an email chain.
What surprised you the most about the records you were reviewing?
I’d have to say the quantity. Records Management staff stays on top of the game, so if you forget to submit your Annual RDA Implementation Report or neglect to file state government records destruction notices, expect an email. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of documents that have to fit into a timeline.
What has this internship taught you about the archival profession?
This profession is accommodating to a wide range of skillsets. Writers, readers, researchers, teachers, delegators, leaders, team players, and communicators all bring something unique and essential to the profession. There is no essential mold of “the archivist,” and the archive could not function without each of its supporting members.
What’s in store for you in school and in your profession over the next several years?
I’m in the preliminary stages of applying for Ph.D. programs, and I’ll be teaching at UAB in the fall. I’m not sure where either of those paths will lead me, but I hope I’m lucky enough to do something involving history in the future.
What are your hobbies outside of school and work?
I like to read, listen to and play music, chill outside (emphasis on chill – not a big summer guy), hang out with my cat, and watch basketball.