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Laura Johnson

​Laura Johnson

Reflections on an internship at LMA

When I first arrived at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) to begin my internship with the Collections team this past February, writes Laura Johnson, I was simultaneously excited and nervous. As an American student studying in London, I thought I was ready for any and every opportunity I would have to learn about the rich history of this bustling city; I had a carefully constructed list of museums, historic sites, and libraries to explore. What more would I need? Well, what I did not anticipate, however, was just how my time at the LMA would give me a greater and deeper insight into London than I ever could have imagined.

While there are many things that I loved about working at the LMA, one of my favorite aspects was getting to learn London’s history on a much more local level. Small history lessons came in the oddest places and in the most unassuming records. I learned when and which streets were repaired after the Blitz in WWII while I entered data records from an old reference book of city deeds. Every time I opened a new box of files to package I would find another apparently random piece of information about communities and areas of London that I had not known before. As I moved from one project to the next, I realized that all these tidbits of information began to form a distinct picture of London’s history that I might only have found in the footnotes of books or on museum plaques that are easily overlooked. These “little” history lessons slowly helped to change my perception of London from an intimidatingly large metropolis in which I was only a visitor to a wonderful city filled with communities to which I could belong.

Yet this was not the only lesson that I learned during my internship. When I first started, I had a limited understanding about the extent of the work that goes on at an archive - especially one the size of LMA. Archives are a centre for research, community building, outreach and education. It was exciting each day to see that ways in which the different teams at LMA work together to bring the amazing resources to the public. Walking through the public research area one day made me realise just how many people could be impacted by the seemingly small projects I was involved with. As an intern in other settings it is easy at times to question the impact that you have on a larger scale. At LMA, however, this was not the case for me. One of my favorite moments of my internship was when I got to finally see all the boxes I had refilled during my time all lined up on the shelves of a strong room. I kept thinking, 'Did I really help with all of that?' As I looked at those boxes, I realised what I would take away from this experience was not only how amazing it was to work with century-old documents, but also the feeling of understanding the importance of one’s work in the entirety of a larger organization like the LMA.  In the end, my internship at the LMA was an amazing experience that I know I will continue to learn from for many years to come.

Laura Johnson worked as an intern at LMA from February to May 2015 as part of her studentship and was supported by her American university.

05 August 2015
Last Modified:
26 September 2018