Recent interns Janna Mueller and Yella Nicklaus share their experiences

August 18, 2021

We would like to extend our introductions not just to our current fellows or alumni, but also those people who are at the beginning of their academic career. Our interns Janna Mueller and Yella Nicklaus have been with the GHI for two months and we recently sat down with them to talk about their experiences during the GHI Internship.

1) What made you apply at the GHI?

JM: When I applied, I already knew that I wouldn't be studying for much longer in my master's program, and I was eager to gain some more experience in historical research during that time. Since I’m studying History of Science, the focus on the history of knowledge at GHI was particularly appealing to me. Also, since I've started looking into digital humanities tools, and digital history is another research focus here, I hoped to learn more through that as well.

YN: I have always been interested in transatlantic and American History, but during my studies, I only had limited opportunity to pursue that interest. Interning at the GHI seemed like a good opportunity to broaden my horizons beyond European history while at the same time experiencing the work environment of a large research institute. I was also excited to learn how historical research was conducted outside of a university environment and get a glimpse into the different departments of the institute.

2) What tasks are you doing? What projects are you involved in?

YN: As I have been here for two months already, I had the chance of working with a wide variety of projects. Currently, I’m working on an interview with a group of volunteers for the German Heritage in Letters website, helping two staff researchers with their research and manuscripts, and conducting research on a Jewish collector of ceremonial objects for Anna-Carolin Augustin’s project. For this research, I will even visit a local archive next week! My last major project for the internship is writing an article on the digitization of archival material for the institute’s href blog.

JM: I have just completed the first month of my internship and yet already feel like I have gained insight into so many different areas. Among other things, I am also helping to prepare a collection for the new website for the German Heritage in Letters project. At the same time, I am supporting Andreas Greiner, who is researching histories of mobility in colonial contexts, reading documents from an early 20th century trading company in present day Tanzania. Soon I will also start to get more involved with text mining, for example by helping to prepare a workshop on this topic.

3) What skills have you learned?

JM: By reading the sources from the early 20th century, I have definitely further improved my ability to read documents in Kurrent script. I also haven't really dealt with mobility history before and find it exciting to learn more about it. As I am as well helping to compile news for the GHI's History of Knowledge blog, I am getting to know my own field with all its events, researchers and networks much better. What I find great is that there is a regular writing seminar that we interns can also participate in to improve our English (and academic) writing skills.

YN: In addition to deepening my skills in historical research regarding sources and literature, I had the opportunity to pick up some completely new skills through the internship: I was introduced to different aspects of digital humanities, for example research data management or the transcription of historical letters using a software. I also learned some technical skills, such as using basic html on the backend of a webpage or the indexing feature in a writing program.

4) What do like about working at the GHI?

YN: Even though my internship is virtual, I really enjoy the work atmosphere at the institute! Every single person I’ve worked with has been exceptionally kind and great to work with. I really feel like I am “part of the team”, even though I’ll only be here for three months. A lot of people have also shown genuine interest in my own research and my future plans, which is something I really appreciate and consider quite exceptional for an internship.

JM: I can only agree with that. Even after one month, I already have the feeling that I am well integrated. The researchers are interested in us interns and try to create space for our own interests as well. The range of intellectual stimulation is therefore really great!

5) How has the crisis affected you?

YN: My internship had been conducted virtually, which means I’m working mostly from my bedroom in Germany instead of one of the institute’s offices in D.C. However, even though I of course would have loved to be there in person, interning from home also has its perks: I can choose my work hours more freely, and can also devote more time to research tasks instead of more ‘typical’ intern work like copying or helping out at events.

JM: I'm also not particularly sad about not having to do any copying or scanning. However, it is of course a shame not to be able to be in Washington and to only get to know everyone via virtual meetings and workshops, even if everything is incredibly well organized. I'm also working from my apartment in Berlin. Luckily, the libraries here will open again starting next week, which will at least provide a bit of spatial variety.