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As the Fall Classic commences, grad student recalls a summer internship in Cooperstown

Jenny Rodger spent her summer working in the stacks of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jenny Rodger did what any Chicago Cubs fan might do upon entering the plaque gallery in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for the first time.

She went looking for Cubs great Ryne Sandberg.

Rodger, who will complete course work for a master’s of library and information science degree at DU in March, had just walked through the front door of the museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., with 19 others to begin a 10-week summer internship.

A staff member led the group to the plaque gallery, told them to explore the pantheon for a few reverent minutes and brought them to earth by saying, “You’re never going to have this awe again, because you’re going to walk through it every single day.”

Diminished awe brought its own reward for Rodger. Her internship in the museum’s photo archives department validated the career path she had contemplated.

“It solidified that I want to be an archivist … and I could do it every day, all day and not get tired of it,” says Rodger, who is from Storm Lake, Iowa. “It was kind of good to be thrown into that environment and know that I could come out on the other side and still like it.”

Rodger was one of 20 undergraduate and graduate students in the 2011 Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership and Development. This was the 11th year for the program, endowed by Peggy Steele in honor of her late husband, Frank, a passionate baseball art collector and preservationist who died in 2000.

“Over the course of the 11 years that we’ve welcomed interns, the program has really grown into an experience that is about more than just 10 weeks of working in a department,” says Brad Horn, senior director of communications and education. “It’s a holistic program replete with speakers from various major industry sectors. Every intern is required to do public presentations, and there’s a lot of collaborative learning that takes place under the guidance of our talented staff.”

More than 500 applications were received for the 20 intern positions. Rodger was chosen for the photo archives department, where a graduate student is typically selected.

“We were very pleased with her work here,” says Jenny Ambrose, the museum’s assistant photo archivist and the staff member who worked the closest with Rodger. “I think she got as much out of the program as you could. And that was her being very smart and taking advantage of all her opportunities and also just her enthusiasm for all aspects of the internship. She’s very well suited to continue in the profession. And anyone that hires her will be lucky to have her.”

Rodger worked with two major photo collections. Last year, Gary Jarvis donated 4,122 photographs and negatives shot at 162 minor league ballparks from 1992–2005. An intern not involved in the Steele program had gone through a small portion of the Jarvis collection, and Rodger finished the process.

“My job was to take all of those photos that he donated to the hall very generously and accession them,” Rodger says, “give them identification numbers and then pick three or four from each stadium and digitize them, so we have kind of a representative of that stadium.”

Rodger wanted to work with an all-digital collection, something she had never done. That opportunity came with the 2010 collection of photographs donated by every major and minor league team. The collection included team photographs, head shots, publicity pictures, action shots and pictures from notable games.

“For the digital archives, she identified each player separately,” Ambrose says, “and added any descriptive data to those images that wasn’t included by the teams. In some cases, she added a lot of information to the photos. She was very enterprising doing the research online or using resources we had here at the Hall of Fame.”

Sleuth work was minimal for the photos the Atlanta Braves included of manager Bobby Cox, who retired at the end of the 2010 season and ranks fourth all-time with 2,504 regular-season victories. Under Cox, the Braves won 14 consecutive National League East titles.

That unparalleled success is a reason Rodger loathes the Braves — and because they signed Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux when he became a free agent after the 1992 season. Nonetheless, she marveled at the seemingly simple pictures of Cox. He’s not riveted on a game in the dugout with his players nearby, but in his office, in the Braves clubhouse, in the tunnel leading to the Braves dugout and gazing out onto the field.

“They kind of paint a different picture of what a manager is and does,” says Rodger, who realized the historical importance of the photos, since Cox is destined for the Hall of Fame. “You know they will be seen, so you want to make sure you do a really good job on the ones you know will be on exhibit someday. And photographs can convey feelings an artifact might not. A bat might not be able to; the picture will.”

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