Our New Archives Intern: Chris Wolak

In the recent past, our archives interns have worked on photo digitizing, researching Anna Pavelka, and fact-checking and writing citations for our tour narratives. Currently, Chris Wolak is working remotely to transcribe, describe, and write finding aids for the Southwick Paper Collection. Chris is a book influencer on social media and, with Emily Fine, has had a literary podcast, Book Cougars, since 2016. We recently asked her to share more about her project and interests. 

My current project at the archive has two parts. First, to transcribe Cather’s address book and a ledger in which she kept track of her royalties. After the transcription, I will write more extensive finding aids for both items to help make them discoverable, searchable, and accessible to the public. I live in Connecticut, so this work is being done remotely.

Tracy scanned the address book and ledger and uploaded the images to me via Dropbox. I then write the transcription onto a shared document. While transcribing, if there is a word I cannot not make out, I highlight it in yellow. I recently finished the transcription of the address book after which, via Zoom, Tracy and I deciphered these challenging entries together. The next phase will be to research the people, places, and subjects of the address book in order to write a thorough finding aid. I will transcribe the ledger in the same way.

How I came to this internship?

In an archives management course last semester, an assignment involved interviewing an archivist about their work, as well as their supervisor about the position of the archives within the larger organization. I immediately thought of the National Willa Cather Center. I have been curious about what Tracy’s day-to-day work is like and how it has evolved over the years. As a long-time member, I know the Foundation has beein through huge changes in recent years. It was both fun and enlightening to talk with both Tracy and Ashley about work in the archives and its management, as well as the growth of the NWCC.

During my conversation with Tracy, we talked about the possibility of a virtual project. The professor at my university who manages the field experience program thought it sounded like a great experience and approved it. This internship is part of an advanced field experience class I am enrolled in this semester which includes 130 hour of hands-on archival work.

My career pursuits?

Women writers, both their writing and their lives, have long been a passion of mine. It is fascinating to work with an item like the address book that can confirm or add to what is known about Cather’s personal and professional associations, and even offer some surprising personal information. Working in a literary archive is a dream job and this internship is giving me a taste of what the actual work is like. I am grateful for the opportunity!

Are you interested in becoming an Archives Intern? Contact Tracy Tucker, Director of Collections & Curation, for more information: