Engaging with History at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

After countless summers of babysitting and getting sunburned at the beach, I am finally trying to be a “real person.” This summer, I have a full-time internship at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, funded by the Hurford Center’s Philadelphia Partners program. I am an education intern, which perfectly combines my history major and education minor and fuels my desire to teach history on the high school level.  The Society aims to bring primary sources into the classroom and helps teachers integrate primary sources into the history curriculum by providing programs and resources. As an education intern,  some of my tasks include editing and updating the lesson plans on the website, observing student programs, analyzing student surveys, and creating my own lesson plans using primary sources found at HSP.

I have been working on a lesson plan about the Vietnam War. HSP houses the papers of Joseph Sill Clark, a Democratic politician from Philadelphia who served both as mayor of Philadelphia and a US Senator. Part of his vast collection are several boxes of items pertaining to the Vietnam war, including personal notes, correspondence with other senators, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and speeches. While perusing these resources, I found a very interesting article about Haverford.

Found in Joseph Sill Clark Papers, Box 246 at Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The article states:  “Communist North Vietnam’s official radio reported Monday that a committee of students at a Pennsylvania college was collecting money to help the Vietcong, which it called the South Vietnam National Liberation Front. The Hanoi radio said students at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, had formed a ‘May 2 Committee’ to collect funds for medical supplies for the Vietcong. The committee also was reported planning a demonstration in New York on May 2 opposing ‘United States imperialist intervention’ in South Vietnam.”

For those of you who are rusty on Vietnam War history, the Viet Cong were the ones that the U.S. was fighting against during the war. Haverford students have never shied from controversy!

Being able to do research at such an extensive and important archive is an amazing opportunity. I never get over the thrill of touching a piece of history. The other day, I was holding letters from William Penn in my hands. Who decided to trust me with that?  I am excited to see what new things I will learn throughout the summer and hope that I do not ruin any priceless documents.