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Learning Lab interns work closely with a single, unprocessed collection held by the Special Collections Research Center. Unprocessed collections are not available to outside researchers, and while archivists have a general idea of the collections' contents, they don't always know what they'll find when they open the box. As a Learning Lab intern, you will be the first person to open the box and explore the papers, photographs, or other materials that make up your collection. Over the course of the year-long internship, you will organize, describe, and creatively engage with your collection to produce an original scholarly research project. 

When you apply for the internship, you should have an idea of the collection you would like to work with. All of our available collections are listed by subject below. Our collections vary widely across time periods and contain an assortment of materials that appeal to students across majors. The collection that you choose will be the subject of your short application essay describing your interests and what you hope to learn from working with archival materials.

You can see the many directions you can take archival research, and the interdisciplinary opportunities available to our interns, by taking a look at past Learning Lab projects

Become a Learning Lab Intern

Applications for the Learning Lab Internship are accepted annually in the Spring.

Apply Now

Available Collections

Art, Architecture, & Music

  • Michel Janet gilding kit, 1760s-1780s. A rare, 18th century gilding kit from Michel Janet, papetier du roi, could lead to research regarding gilding traditions and history, French history, or investigation into how modern artists apply this technique in current work. (Subjects: metals; art; architecture; French history; printmaking) 2019ms028
  • Rena Lipetz Niles papers, 1930-1982. Russian-born and educated at Wellesley and the Sorbonne in Paris, Rena Lipetz (1913-1996) married American composer and Kentuckian John Jacob Niles in 1936. Her papers include travel diaries, correspondence, and writings. Much is known about her famous husband, but this is an opportunity to learn more about the woman who managed his business affairs and was accomplished in her own right. (Subjects: travel; music; literature)
  • Tuska Studio records, 1978-2017. Collection contains studio and arts administration records of former UK ceramics professor John Tuska. He is known for his work that illustrates the physicality of the human form, and his work can be seen on the UK campus in the Fine Arts Building and Library. (Subjects: art; sculpture; arts administration) 2018ms027


The Black Experience

  • 100th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment records, 1864-1865. This collection contains muster and descriptive rolls of soldiers in the 100th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, which was organized in Kentucky between May 3 and June 1, 1864. The soldiers appear to have been formerly enslaved in Kentucky prior to joining the Union Army. The unit protected the Nashville and Northwestern Railway in December 1864, and saw action at Johnsonville (November 4-5), Battle of Nashville (December 15-16), Overton Hill (December 16), and in pursuit of John Bell Hood’s command to the Tennessee River (December 17-28). (Subjects: African American history; military; Civil War) 2006ms054
  • William S. Dallam letter to Thomas, 1800s. The Dallam letter seems to be in response to a request by Thomas to establish his title to freedom. Thomas, formerly enslaved, was manumitted in Maryland, which means he gained his freedom. But there must have been a need to know the names of his parents, which he did not know. This letter brings to light many of the hurdles Thomas faced on his legal path to freedom. (Subjects: freedom; slavery; documentation; lineage; law) 2021ms059
  • Duncan papers, 1790s-1930s. Among the Duncan papers are items related to Charles Dupuy’s emancipation from slavery. While enslaved, Dupuy worked as Henry Clay’s valet at the Ashland estate in Lexington and traveled often to Washington, D.C. He was manumitted in 1844 and continued to work for Clay until 1848. He later moved to Washington, D.C. and lived there with his family. (Subjects: slavery; land sale; emancipation) 87m6

Civil Rights, Social Justice, & Activism

  • Patricia Cooper collection on feminism, 1960s-1970s. Feminist publications, newspaper clippings, and ephemera that includes materials from the Cleveland Women’s Liberation Movement and the Dayton Women’s Liberation front from the 1960s to the 1970s. (Subjects: feminism) 2018ms059
  • Victor Howard Collection on Civil Rights and Church-State, 1907-1989. Victor Howard was a professor at Morehead State University who collected materials on the struggle for Civil Rights in America. His collection contains speeches, newspapers, ephemera (that means flyers or other materials that are of an ephemeral nature), and legislation for Civil Rights efforts in numerous states. For the Learning Lab project, you will focus on the section of the collection that pertains to Civil Rights in Kentucky from 1956 to 1976. (Subjects: civil rights; sociology; religion; politics; human rights) 2009ms014
  • Ed Johnstone papers, 1970s-1980s. Ed Johnstone, a legendary federal judge in Paducah, Kentucky, was instrumental in overhauling prison conditions in the Kentucky State Reformatory and the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women. Johnstone’s collection documents these cases, which were part of a movement for prison reform litigation that swept the country in the 1970s and 1980s. (Subjects: law; prison reform) 2022ms056
  • Abby Marlatt papers, 1945-2007. Abby Marlatt (1916-2010) was a professor of home economics at UK and a human rights and social justice activist in Lexington. She founded the Lexington chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which pioneered the use of nonviolent civil disobedience in the fight for American Civil Rights. CORE is well known for his work supporting the Montgomery Bus Boycott and working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Working with this collection will provide an opportunity to study how CORE operated in Lexington during this time period. (Subjects: human rights; Civil Rights; social justice; housing; activism) 2012ms050
  • Tenant Services and Organization Assistance, Inc. records, 1972-1980. Collection contains reports, articles, and correspondence related to Central Kentucky Legal Services, Lexington Housing Authority, and Community Development activities in Lexington in the 1970s. (Subjects: housing; poverty; legal services; aging) 1997ms296

Early Kentucky History

  • Squire Boone family legal documents, 1779-1874. Squire Boone was Daniel’s younger brother, and was a frontiersman, hunter, soldier, city planner, politician, judge, gunsmith, and miller. These legal documents relate to land sales, legal disputes (including a claim by John Bowman), and financial obligations. (Subjects: early Kentucky history; settlement)
  • Bourbon County, Kentucky, land records, 1786-1820. Early land records from Bourbon County that date to the formation of the Commonwealth. (Subjects: environment; law; agriculture; early Kentucky history; land; wealth) 46M94
  • William H. Nickels letterpress book, 1874-1877. This book contains more than 700 outgoing letters from Nickels, general merchant, town trustee, and postmaster of Whitesburg, Kentucky. Nickels built the first brick house in Whiteburg and went on to own the general store that provided so much to the town. You’ll learn about early business in Kentucky following the Crash of 1873 and so much about the town’s residents through the goods they purchased. (Subjects: business; shipping; consumer goods; postal routes; mail; pension claims; Crash of 1873) 2007ms091
  • James Reid homesteading letter, 1790. James Reid wrote to his wife and detailed his arrival in Kentucky and his journey to Kentucky, construction of their house, and attempts at homesteading. (Subjects: early Kentucky history; farming; settlement) 2021ms031
  • Henry K. Reynolds travel journal, 1839-1840. Travel along with Henry K. Reynolds as he explored the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from the fall of 1839 to the spring of 1840.(Subjects: travel; Mississippi River; environment)
  • William and John Richardson indenture of orphans to Daniel Bryan, 1804. In 1804, two orphaned brothers were indentured to work and learn the “art and mystery of gunsmiths” as well as receive a basic education from Daniel Bryan, a noted Kentucky pioneer and Revolutionary War veteran. (Subjects: labor; child welfare; education; gunsmithing) 2022ms001

Environment & Engineering

  • AMD&ART Park records, 1995-2018. The AMD&ART Park in Vintondale, Pennsylvania, is at the site of an abandoned mine operation in Appalachia that left the environment severely damaged, particularly due to pre-regulatory mining. Acid mine drainage (AMD) causes significant water and soil quality problems for regions long after the industry abandons a site. This project began in 1994 with the intent of honoring the past of the land while healing the landscape through a multidisciplinary approach that combines history, art, landscape architecture, and science. These records contain project files, slides, video, publications, and other media related to this project. (Subjects: environment; mining; art; science; landscape architecture; conservation; Appalachia; environmental activism; parks; recreation; land reclamation; site-specific art; water conservation) 2019ms045
  • Hiram Graham papers, 1915-1950. Hiram Graham was a UK professor and dean of the College of Engineering. He served as a Captain of Engineers with the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during WWI. He was also a consultant on engineering projects related to damming rivers, mining coal, and rail construction. This collection contains plans for those projects and environmental impacts. (Subjects: engineering; dam construction; coal mining; military; environmentalism; geography; infrastructure) 0000UA094
  • Martin C. Krimm newsletters, 1964-1968. Collection contains newsletters written primarily by University of Kentucky Electrical Engineering faculty member Martin C. Krimm, dating from 1964-1968. Each edition of the newsletter includes multiple pages of transcriptions of excerpts various publications (newspapers, books, letters received by Krimm) and Krimm's commentary on the magic, mysticism, and interrelationships among education and teaching, religion, politics, history, the state of the world, and the University. (Subjects: education, religion, politics, UK) 2006ua013
  • United States National Weather Service Lexington Weather Bureau records, 1873-1988. This collection contains the official handwritten daily accounts of weather in Lexington from 1873 to 1988. For your research, specific time periods should be selected because the data is so detailed and voluminous. This is an exciting opportunity to research weather trends, compare past weather with modern weather, and explore significant storms of the past. (Subjects: weather; climate; meteorology; climate change; environment) 2022ms006

Immigration & WWII

  • Fred Gross Holocaust Survivor thank you letters, 1970s-2000s. At a young age, Fred Gross fled the Nazis in Europe and immigrated to the United States. He graduated from New York University, worked as a newspaper reporter, and later settled in Louisville. He gave talks about his life and experience in the Holocaust to middle and high school students around Kentucky, and these letters were written to him by students moved by his firsthand accounts to history. (Subjects: Holocaust; education; WWII; Jewish studies)
  • Arnold Wolfgang Joseph family papers, 1930s-2010. Includes research files, scrapbook, newspaper clippings, and artifacts (suitcase and lemon) relating to the experience and life of Arnold Wolfgang Joseph and his immigration to the United States from Germany in the 1930s as a part of the One Thousand Children program. Includes genealogical and research information compiled by his daughters after his death, his YIVO file, a scrapbook of his family sent to him following WWII, and his suitcase and a lemon given to him by his mother. (Subjects: immigration; WWII; children) 2022ms044

Kentucky Industries & Culture

  • Brown Brothers Photographers moonshine operations in Kentucky and Georgia photographs, 1890s-1920s. A collection of 13 photographs by the Brown Brothers Photographers (from New York) depict moonshine operations after they had been raided by authorities and a trial scene from a Prohibition-era court case. (Subjects: alcohol; Prohibition; photography) 2023av001
  • Hywel Davies papers, 1894-1908. Davies worked as a business agent at the University of Kentucky, but he worked in the coal industry before he came to UK in 1913. This collection contains papers related to his work with the Kentucky Coal Operators Association and the Main Jellico Mountain Coal Company in Whitley County, Kentucky, and offers a glimpse into the world of coal mining and marketing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Subjects: coal mining; labor; business; marketing) 0000UA065
  • North American Industrial Hemp Council records, 1990s. At one point Kentucky was the largest producer of hemp in the country. This collection contains records from the Kentucky Hemp and Fiber Related Task Force, which was established in 1993-1994 by Governor Brereton C. Jones, as well as the North American Industrial Hemp Council. Numerous samples and artifacts demonstrate the wide range of applications for him in industry. (Subjects: agriculture; business; engineering; industry) 2019ms008
  • Old Taylor and Old Overholt Whiskey collection, 1900-1940s. A unique opportunity to drink in (not literally!) Kentucky’s historic bourbon industry through pamphlets, postcards, photographs, typescripts, and promotional materials related to the Old Taylor and Old Overholt brands of whiskey from the first half of the 20th century. Old Taylor was produced E.H. Taylor & Sons of Frankfort, Kentucky, and Old Overholt was produced by A. Overholt & Company of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Both brands were later bought by the National Distillers Products Corporation. (Subjects: bourbon industry; marketing; corporate papers; Prohibition) 2021ms009
  • Ward Family papers, 1845-1930. The Ward Family of Bourbon County, Kentucky, bred Standardbred horses, Berkshire hogs, and Jersey cattle. James Clay Ward was a well-known horse show judge at Kentucky State Fairs and even officiated at the Madison Square Garden Show in New York. Records in this collection contain stud books, stock books, and photographs related to the family farm in Bourbon County. (Subjects: horse industry; Standardbreds; trotting and saddle horses; Kentucky State Fair; horse shows; judging; horse breeding; farming) 1997ms242

Nursing & Medicine

  • Dorothy Annabelle Caldwell Frontier Nursing Service scrapbook, 1930s. This scrapbook is believed to have been created by Dorothy Annabelle Caldwell (1909-2004), who volunteered with the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) in the early 1930s. Caldwell served as a courier, which included tending the horses for the service. The scrapbook contains photographs and pasted articles from the FNS newsletter. (Subjects: nursing; medicine; Appalachia) 2023av006
  • Diary of an unidentified nurse, 1938. A young nurse who worked in insane asylums offers a rare, intimate glimpse into the education and care of mental illness in Dayton, Kentucky and Cincinnati in the Depression-era. She describes patient illnesses, treatments, and medicine. (Subjects: nursing; medicine; psychiatry; mental illness) 2023ms010

Rare Books & Manuscripts

  • Autoritates Arestotilis, an incunabula (early printed book) from the 1490s is a series of abbreviations from major philosophers that has been annotated and underlined by a contemporary reader in ink through the medical sections, where they have also added a note at the back about cadavers. This researcher would need to have a reading knowledge of Latin and would be great for someone interested in philosophy, the history of medicine, or reader responses. 
  • The Cruise Book of Maps is a gay travel guide from the 1980s that contains descriptions and advertisements throughout the United States including brief entries for Lexington and Louisville. This would be good for a researcher interested in queer history or travel guides.
  • This gathering of Forty-five Prospectuses for Forthcoming Printed Books and One Periodical, bound with a map and instrument dealers' catalog is a collected boundwidth of 45 advertisements for French publications from various publishers from 1817-1825 with some annotations from prior owners. This researcher would need to have a reading knowledge of French and would be great for someone interested in book history, reading practices, and 19th century advertising methods.
  • Franciscan Friar travel manuscript, 1782. The Noticia, la precisa no mas, de mi viaje a San Blas, emprendida por disposicion divina indispensable, aunque segun el parecer del mundo con yerro, y apostasia de la religion is a handwritten notebook written by an apostate Franciscan friar to describe his travels through Mexico to ascertain the state of religious life. The friar gives a first-hand account of the numerous places he visited as he travelled from Puebla to San Blas, ending up in Mexico City. Ability to read Spanish is a must for this collection. (Subjects: Mexico, religion, Spanish, Castillian, travel)
  • The Introduction a la vie Deuote, a 1644 book of religious meditations printed in a unique font designed by calligrapher Pierre Moreau is probably most interesting for its annotations made by noted alchemist Thomas Henshaw. Though the text is in French I think this could easily be studied by someone who is a beginner in the language. It would be great for a researcher interested in typography, scientific reader responses, religious thought, and provenance.
  • The Life and Most Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York Mariner / La Vie et Très Surprenantes Aventures de Robinson Crusoe d’York Marin was printed and translated by Duchesse de Luynes (Guyonne-Élisabeth-Josèphe de Montmorency-Laval) at her estate during the French Revolution in 1797. This would be great for a researcher interested in women's history, private presses, literary translation, or the French Revolution.