Today’s interview is with Erika Wesch, an intern working on transcribing the Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents crowdsourcing campaign at the Law Library of Congress.
Describe your background:
Although born in Bethesda, Maryland, I was raised in South Florida. I grew up 10 minutes from the beach, but I always felt drawn to the Washington, D.C., area for its history and opportunities. I was introduced to Spanish in kindergarten through an elementary dual language program, and I have been passionate about the language ever since. Learning about a culture and language completely different than my own at that age sparked my interest in understanding how humans interact on a larger scale. Studying history has allowed me to view the world as a series of connections and relationships, leading me down my current academic path.
What is your academic/professional history?
I am currently a rising junior at Rollins College, a small liberal arts school outside of Orlando, FL. I’m majoring in history, and I have tried my hardest to apply my academic studies to the outside world, so that has meant a lot of involvement in different activities! I have worked, volunteered, and interned at several museums in Florida, as well as the National Postal Museum in DC. Through my school, I have worked on a variety of original research projects. Some of my favorites have been a deep dive into the history of women at Rollins, a museum exhibit of a LGBTQ+ bookstore in downtown Orlando, and a list of African American historians for the artist Yinka Shonibare. I find purpose in telling stories that have not been told before and highlighting hidden social histories, and I hope to complete a few more projects before I graduate.
How would you describe your job to other people?
My job here is to make research easier. At the Law Library, the Herencia interns are reviewing and transcribing hundreds of documents to improve access to a massive collection of Spanish legal documents. Transcribing allows these documents to be easily searched and found, aiding researchers in their quest to better understand the world and its history.
Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?
It has always been a dream of mine to work at one of the seminal institutions that calls DC home, so this was a no-brainer for me. When I saw an internship that combined my passions of language, law, and public history, it just made sense to apply. This internship is another way for me to make history accessible to all, and I am proud to be a part of it.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?
One interesting thing I learned was that after the Mexican-American War in 1848, the Law Library acquired all Mexican laws. Congress authorized the Law Library to buy all available laws, which became one of the earliest collections of foreign law in the Law Library. Now, the Law Library houses the largest law collection in the world.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
My first job was at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse as a tour guide, and that has led me to have an obsession with lighthouses. My specialty is Florida lighthouses, but if you ever want to discuss or visit lighthouses, let me know.