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Home » About » Blog » A Q&A with Graduating Clements Intern, Aleksandra Kole

Aleksandra Kole is graduating from LSA with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science minoring in Moral and Political Philosophy. She has also been actively involved in LSA Student Government serving this past year as Treasurer. 


How did you find the internship at the Clements Library?

The summer of my sophomore year, I searched for a job position to utilize my Political Science and Philosophy knowledge. I stumbled upon a processing archivist position for the William L. Clements Library, which requested aid to organize the James Valentine Mansfield Papers, written in the 19th century by a spiritualist and writing medium from New York.

Aleksandra and Cheney working at the Clements Library.

Before your interview, had you known about the Clements Library? What were your impressions of the Clements?

Throughout my time at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, I would always walk by a beautiful white building (the Clements Library) on my way to study at Shapiro library. I was lucky enough to see the building’s beauty up close when I had an interview scheduled with my future supervisor, Cheney J. Schopieray, who showed me the library’s incredible materials, such as the original writings of Benjamin Franklin and the Grimké sisters. To see the treasured history carefully taken care of filled me with joy. I imagined my writings, along with other beautiful souls, having their masterpieces treated the same one day.

What does it mean to “organize” a collection? 

Organizing a collection can mean a lot of things. Sometimes it is content-oriented, such as my work on the James V. Mansfield Papers where I had to identify the main topics discussed, arrange the materials by type and function, and compose a finding aid for future researchers. Within the E.C. Randall Papers there is a mix of content with connections to other collections. I was tasked with identifying any spiritualist figures that appeared in both the J.V.M. Papers and E.C. Randall Papers. Finally, my work with the Henry Clinton Papers was purely to re-house the materials based on their original arrangement to prepare them for digitization and make them more accessible to readers and researchers.

What was your favorite item/part of the Mansfield collection?

My favorite part of the collection was reading Mansfield’s personal correspondence where he mentioned his friend living to the age of 113 because he walked 3 miles a day and Mansfield advised his son, who was living in France at the time, to walk this amount for a longer life. I thought this was a very helpful homeopathic remedy and told my family to make sure they get their steps in! Furthermore, J.V.M. mentioned visiting a doctor miles away when he was ill who recommended carryIng Lobelia (a flower) on him. From then on, whenever Mansfield felt ill, he would touch the lobelia plant in his coat pocket and claimed to never need to see a doctor again. 

Finally, there was a portrait of James V. Mansfield sketched by his son, John Worthington Mansfield that was very life-like and sat by me as I organized the collection. This portrait is now stored in the library’s vault and is an excellent item to make readers feel closer to the collection.

Aleksandra with Deborah and Bruce Oakley.


When you compare the life of James V. Mansfield to how we live today, what observations do you make?

Many of my coworkers joked that working at the library was like time travel and I was able to experience that firsthand through reading this collection. Mansfield’s mediumship client record books were filled with details about the different causes of deaths (horse carriage accidents, experimental surgeries, etc.) to the vast array of reasons for wanting to speak with spirits (spiritualist beliefs, financial or relationship advice, etc.). To compare this to life in 2024 is striking as horse carriages have been replaced with motorized vehicles (or electronic automobiles), and experimental surgeries are now forbidden with stricter laws to hold doctors accountable. Yet, it is interesting to see how the personal problems present around 200 years ago are still part of our lives today. While Spiritualist beliefs are not as popular, concerns over finances and relationships seem to have remained the same. Constantly making connections between the past and the present is one of the most valuable things I have gained from the J.V.M. Papers.

What happens once the collection is organized?

I had a plethora of notes that I took while reading through the J.V.M. Papers, and then I wrote an outline of a finding aid based on them. Once that was completed, I met with my supervisor Cheney to write a finding aid for researchers to give them a detailed idea of what they would find within the collection.

Did you work on any other projects?

Yes, I worked on the E.C. Randall Papers which were written by a Spiritualist lawyer, based in a different century than the J.V.M. Papers–in the 1920s and 1930s. I found this collection fascinating because many legal officials, like prominent judges, would reach out to E.C. Randall to say that they did not give credit to Spiritualism but were beginning to believe because they trusted E.C Randall to be an honest advocate. Furthermore, I worked on the Henry Clinton Papers which were written primarily during the American Revolution and embodied a vastly different context from the other projects I was a part of. 

Alexsandra at her work station with the portrait of James Mansfield watching her work.

Any final thoughts about your experience at the Clements Library?

My work at the library over the last two years has been supported by the George F. Hacker Internship. His dedication to helping others learn more about history has made an immense impact on my life, which I will forever cherish. I was also lucky enough to meet his daughter Debby Oakley, who hand-delivered me a letter about their family history. She shared insightful stories about her father and the Hacker family, which reminded me of the positive changes that can be made to others’ lives for generations. I hope to pass on this beacon of generosity and support to others in my future. The Clements Library has been an incredible place to connect with others and grow as a person. I am eternally grateful for all the amazing people that I have met.

What’s next for you?

After graduation, I am excited to utilize all the historical knowledge that I have found from working at the library in my future work as a paralegal for Fieger Law. I also intend to pursue a JD degree and am grateful for the opportunities that working at the William L. Clements Library has given me in my personal and professional life.