Reflective Essay


The purpose of this website is to catalog the Bowling Green State University internship project sponsored by the Browne Popular Culture Library and the National First Ladies' Library. The internship ran from September 7th to November 13th at the Browne Popular Culture Library on the BGSU campus and was overseen by head librarian Nancy Down.


The Internship project was titled Female Representation in Political Pins and collectables from 1964-2016 and covered 52 years of political pins and collectables in the library’s collection that related to women. The project was two-fold, one consisting of a digital exhibit for the BGSU Jerome Library website, and the other being a one-hour lecture for the National First Ladies’ Library. This digital exhibit was prepared for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote (1920) and explores the themes of First LadiesFirst Families, and FLOTUS HopefulsFemale Political Candidates, Negative Campaigns, Family ValuesAllegories, and Appeals for the Female vote. The lecture was made as a part of the NationalFirst Ladies’ Library Lecture Series as a way to continue to educate and stay engaged with the public during Covid-19 quarantine.

This project allowed me to work on my skills as an archivist and educator in the areas of surveying collections, identifying areas of interest, photographing and documenting the items, researching and putting them into historical context, and creating interactive websites to be used by researchers, educators, students, and the public. The bulk of the items came from The Bernard L. Karr Political Pinback Button Collection which has over 1200 buttons that spans 40 years from 1976 to 2016 covering a wide range of presidential campaigns including every major Republican and Democratic presidential candidate from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump. Together with other button and collectable collections this exhibit cover 52 years of presidential campaigns. The digital exhibit and lecture featured 38 slides and over 120 items.

The first step in preparing the collection was to survey all buttons and collectables in the Browne Popular Culture Library which are kept in acid free archival boxes.

About 250 buttons were selected, grouped into themes, and labeled so they would be correctly identified and returned to the correct spot in the boxes. Yellow Post-It notes were assigned to every item identifying the box, row and placement locations along with other pertinent information.

From there the very tedious task of researching every button, image used, and person in the images began. This process took a lot of time and required patience and the use of websites, catalogs, and historical documents within and outside the library. Some objects told a story on their own such as this 2008 Barack Obama theme deck of cards that followed the story of the election campaign and some of the key moments such as when Oprah Winfrey joined the campaign trail on Obama’s behalf.

Some items can be paired with other items in our collection to help complete the story, such as this George H. W. Bush "Honey I Shrunk The Economy" pin that was created shortly after the blockbuster hit ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids.”

Once the research is completed and specific learning themes are identified, there were 120 buttons of note to use for the project and the others were returned to the stacks.

  From there the buttons were photographed, either separately or in groups depending on the topic.

The same was done for our political collectables collection.


Then text was written with the histories of the objects put within historical context.


Next the images and text were uploaded to the BGSU Library Digital Exhibits website. There are 38 slides in the presentation featuring 120 buttons (and 7 collectables) within 8 chapters (with a total of 38 separate sections). The text in the exhibit has a  2,994 word count.


For the lecture with the National First Ladies’ Library I was in constant contact with the director for over a month tailoring a version of the digital exhibit just for their audience. We wanted to make sure there wasn’t any overlap with items they might have in their collection, as well as focus on specific themes that match their mission statement.


The lecture was simulcast on their website as well as on Facebook on Friday, November 13th from 10am to 11am for 78 attendees. This number doubled over the following weekend with more viewers watching the recorded program on their facebook page.


After the lecture a Question & Answer was held with questions from viewers about the button collection, the research, and the Browne Popular Culture Library in general. 

In conclusion, this internship has been an amazing opportunity for me. Not just in helping me develop archival and public history skills, but in giving me the opportunity to work with prestigious institutions as well as creating educational content for the public good, as this is the career path I would like to take. The Browne Popular Culture assignment of creating digital exhibits is ongoing regardless of the Covid-19 quarantine, but the National First Ladies' Library Virtual lecture Series was created specifically to keep the public engage from home. It was a great opportunity to exercise quick adaptability to unforeseen circumstances. 

As these two projects were largely self directed I was able to learn and put to use a multitude of skillsets at every level, from developing a project idea to creating every aspect from research to creating audio/visual components, to working directly with institutions and the public. i was able to get direct feedback from the head librarian and the reference archivist at the BGSU library as well as from the director and head librarian at the National First ladies' Library. My projects are uploaded to both institutions' websites (as well as here) for continued thoughtful engagement with the public. 

I am truly thankful for the opportunities this program has given me, and hope my future career will incorporate the values and mission that these institutions represent. 


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