After a phenomenal ten weeks working under Professor Megan Robb and her incredible team on the Unstable Archives project, I have concluded my summer research internship! I can wholeheartedly say that it was a phenomenal experience that allowed me to take on a number of roles. From metadata creation to transcribing Elizabeth Sharaf un-Nisa Ducarel’s penmanship book, this role has taught me more about the period of British imperialism in South Asia, as well as the work of an academic historian, than I had known previously.
Before this position, I had limited experience with archival research and had no idea what the digital humanities were. I took this position because I was curious about digging deeper into issues of race and colonialism that I had not known more than surface-level information. Some of the material I extensively read through contained details of the British East India Company’s operations and takeover of the Indian subcontinent, something I had not learned beforehand, as well as the related history of sexual violence inflicted on native women. It can be quite difficult to comprehend certain elements of actions taken to subjugate the local people, especially in the context of how today’s standards and laws. I found myself having issues viewing this information objectively at times as I tended to make judgements based on what I read. However, it was great to piece together the scattered information available in archives to draw conclusions about Mrs. Ducarel and her exceptional story to become a woman of English society.
It would have been great to have worked in person, but I found it to be more effective virtually than I originally anticipated. Whether I continue to pursue History beyond graduation or not, I feel this experience was quite valuable for two main reasons: 1) working in a non-traditional setting has taught me to be flexible and willing to change, and 2) completing this work has accentuated my analytical capabilities and attention to details. I will be presenting a final poster on my contributions to the project very soon, so this is not the complete end!