Editor’s note: Each year since 2012 we offer a paid summer internship to honor Fr. Maynard Geiger, OFM. The purpose of this internship is to support an opportunity for an undergraduate or graduate student to gain experience working in an archive. The internship is open to students considering further studies or career in public history, art history, library and information technology, archive management, or museum studies. We are very happy to announce that this year’s Geiger intern is Adela Contreras, an incoming graduate student in the History Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Please continue reading to learn more about Adela and the work she is undertaking during her internship. And if you are interested in more information about this internship please visit www.sbmal.org .
Hello, I am Adela Contreras, a California native from Los Angeles.
I am entering the doctoral program in United States history at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) in the fall of 2015. I am very excited to be serving as the 2015 Geiger Summer Intern at SBMAL.
I first became engaged with archival work in 2012 while a student at Pasadena City College (PCC). There, I worked on an independent project surveying the collection at the San Gabriel History Museum.
I accepted admission as an undergraduate transfer student at UCSB in 2013. A current graduate student in the history department at UCSB informed me of the Geiger Summer Internship that year. I applied for the 2013 internship and although I was not selected I received positive and constructive feedback from the director, Monica Orozco, which was very helpful to my successful application this summer.
This summer I am working on the Franciscan Father Bonaventure Oblasser collection representing over 50 years of Franciscan missionary work in Arizona. Specifically, I am helping the archive construct a useful reference of the collection’s immense photograph and postcard collection. The overwhelming majority of the photographs are undated, the subjects unidentified, and the photographs are not in sequential order. In order to give context to the photographs I reference documents in the Oblasser papers including correspondence, mission records, and school records. I am also conducting ongoing research on indigenous people of the southwest and I am working on a historiographical study of Father Oblasser.
The photographs and postcards roughly cover the last decade of the nineteenth century through the mid twentieth century. The subjects of the photographs primarily include indigenous people; everyday desert life, plants and wildlife, mission life, travel photos, and pets. As a history student, I am drawn not only to the subjects of the photographs but to the clues they give me about the interests of the photographer as they indicate what was considered significant to document.
I have many “favorite” themes but one that comes to mind after I’ve left the archive for the day is a collection of poems printed on postcards. The poems are written from the points of view of indigenous people and frontiersmen. Their expressions of the west communicate sorrow; woe, fear, romance, adventure, beauty, excitement, and conflict. So many universal human emotions and experiences are communicated in this collection of poems, inspired by a contested geographical space.
Father Oblasser is recognized in scholarship for his missionary work with the Tohono O’odham. However, his photographic collection extends well beyond the Sonoran desert and mission life. The images are mesmerizing, engaging windows to the past and significant to the study of the Southwest.