Our next volunteer to spotlight is Inge Zwart from Middelburg, The Netherlands.
After completing her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences in January 2015, Inge became an intern at the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg. She combines the internship with her work as a Museum Educator at the Zeeuws Museum. She will continue her studies in Public Humanities at Brown University from September 2015 onwards.
Q: What motivated you to become a Theodore Roosevelt Center digital library volunteer?
A: During my last semester of college I took part in a course called “The Roosevelt Legacy,” offered by the Roosevelt Study Center. Here, I was introduced to the Roosevelts, their legacy and their relation to the Zeeland, the province of the Netherlands I currently reside in. My final research paper concerned Theodore Roosevelt’s stance on the use of national parks for recreational purposes. After this great course (and graduation) I had the chance to start as an intern at the Roosevelt Study Center. The RSC wished to contribute to the project of the TRC and strengthen its relationship with Dickinson State University, TRC and the local University College. With my growing interest in the Roosevelts and especially Theodore, I was very excited to start volunteering for the digitization project as part of my internship.
Q: What has been your favorite part of volunteering?
A: The grant variety of letters I ended up reading and the feeling of getting an insight into the (private) life of Theodore Roosevelt. It is in a way very intimate to read someone’s thoughts so carefully articulated, mentioning his opinions, giving compliments or discreetly expressing his discomfort with a specific situation.
Q: What has been the most challenging part of volunteering?
A: Next to the handwriting which can sometimes be very unclear, I also saw a challenge in finding a balance between cataloging the more basic letters (a simple thank-you or decline of an invitation) and the longer, more interesting ones.
Q: Tell me about your favorite “discovery” while cataloging…
A: I have cataloged some great letters, of which I count the correspondence with various ambassadors as the most interesting. However, my favorite letter has a slightly different tone and was sent to Carl H. Eigenmann. It becomes clear that Eigenmann had written Roosevelt to mention that he had named his piranha after Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt, in his enthusiasm for animals and nature, is glad to hear this and asks something about a cat-fish eating a monkey, in his response.
Q: What advice would you give to a future Theodore Roosevelt Center digital library volunteer?
A: Take your time! Also the shorter letters need your full attention. Also, if you have the chance, it is great to keep a document with the most exciting, funny, or great lines TR has written in his letters. You can improve your own vocabulary and get people interested in TR by showing some of his writing.