A Day in the Life of a National Archives Intern

National Archives Metro Station

A “typical” day in D.C. looks different depending on where you are interning. You could be planning an event for an advocacy group, doing market research for a consulting firm or assisting in a police investigation.

But no matter where your D.C. internship is, every day in the nation’s capital brings countless opportunities to see something exciting, meet someone new or do something you’ve never done before.

Here’s a snapshot of one of my days as an intern at the National Archives and Records Administration:

7:20 a.m.: Wake up to the sweet sounds of dog barks and construction. After snoozing my alarm a few times, I stumble to eat breakfast and pack my lunch for work as sleep drains from my body. I brush my teeth, wash my face and get dressed for the day.

8:20 a.m.: Head to the Metro with my fellow intern, Stevie, and we ride the red and yellow lines to work. Interning in the heart of the city definitely has its perks! Once I get off the Metro, I’m greeted by sunlight streaming over the Capitol building. I pass by this site almost every morning, and it never gets old.

National Archives building
The National Archives building where I work is surrounded by D.C. highlights: the Capitol sits on one end of Pennsylvania Ave, the National Gallery of Art is a short walk away and the White House is a few blocks over.

9 a.m.: When I enter the building, I am greeted by the friendly security staff who guard the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. They not only protect these important documents, but are also very knowledgeable about their history.

After I get settled at my desk, I usually make a cup of hot chocolate to ease the morning cold, then get started on my day. Since I am an intern in the Education and Public Programs department, my job is very interactive. Throughout the week, I give tours of the Rotunda, create programs based on our nation’s original documents, work in the Resource Room and help orchestrate learning labs for students.

10 a.m.: Today, I’m giving a tour to a school group visiting from Maryland. I love seeing the excitement on the students’ faces when they see the Declaration of Independence for the first time, or when I point out the hidden painting of former President Abraham Lincoln in one of the Rotunda murals.

Food Trucks in DC

12p.m.: Once the students leave, I head out for lunch. Lunch breaks near the Archives are adventurous to say the least. I can walk to the National Mall and order from food trucks while watching intramural soccer games or walk the opposite direction towards Chinatown. The possibilities are endless (as well as the food options)!

1 p.m.: The days usually fly by after lunch. Today I’m diving into a project about Dr. Seuss. Many people know Dr. Seuss from his clever children’s books, but during World War I, he also created several short films depicting key themes of the war. Dr. Seuss created a short story with a character named Private Snafu that we have displayed in the Archives, and my job is to create an interactive program about it for our Resource Room.

3 p.m.: I take the afternoon to do some work for the DocsTeach program which helps high school teachers understand our documents and provides unique ways to incorporate them into lesson plans. I add more information about the records we have and transcribe a few documents on the website.

5 p.m.: Once five o’clock rolls around, I usually walk to the Metro with Stevie and take the 20 minute ride home. Today is sunny though, so we walk instead!

5:45 p.m.: When we get back home to the Residential and Academic Facility I eat dinner and hang out with some of the friends I have made. We spend a great deal of our time applying to jobs and watching new Netflix shows, and tonight is no different! Time to get ready to start again tomorrow!

Melanie Griffin headshot

Melanie Griffin is a history and African American studies major at The University of Central Arkansas. She has participated in The Washington Center’s 2018 Inside Washington Academic Seminar and the spring 2018 Academic Internship Program. She had the pleasure of interning at the National Archives and Records Administration where she was a part of the Education and Public Programs Staff.

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