By Emily Reimer
When she was in middle school, Kaitlyn (Katie) Minarsich’s older brother took her to an exhibit showcasing items from one of the country’s premier collections in the history of biology and medicine, where he also happened to work as an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota. Minarsich was fascinated by the contents of the collection.
The library they visited was the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine (WHL), which remains a treasure trove of medical artifacts, rare books, journals, and manuscripts spanning half a millennium from 1430 to 1930.
Fast forwarding to the present, Minarsich is following the family tradition of working as an undergraduate employee at the Wangensteen Library. One of her main contributions has been helping to convert a 2013 physical exhibit on Downton Abbey into an updated, online interactive exhibit — just in time for the Downton Abbey movie coming out this fall.
Minarsch recently shared some of her thoughts and experiences about working at WHL with us. Here’s what she had to say.
Q: What new skills did you learn while you worked at the Wangensteen Library?
KM: One of the main skills I learned while working in WHL is how to conduct research. I use the University of Minnesota’s online library catalog all the time to double-check call numbers or gather more information about the books we want to use (especially since a lot of the books are in a different language!). I also learned a lot about how to write clear and concise information for the Downton Abbey project, and how to relate the materials we had at the library to a cultural event that attracts people’s attention.
Q: You worked closely with WHL curators and staff. What was that like?
KM: Everyone at the library loves being here and cares a lot about the work we all do. Lois Hendrickson (Curator) and Emily Beck (Assistant Curator) were always willing to review my writing and help me find materials that could make our project even better. Christopher Herzberg (Library Assistant and Preservation Specialist) could always help me find something if it wasn’t on the shelves. Support from all of the WHL staff made me feel comfortable and confident in the work I was doing, knowing that if I had an issue, all I had to do was ask.
Q: How has this work enhanced your time as a student at the University of Minnesota?
KM: This job is like taking a class while also having a job; you learn about so many different aspects of medical history while you work. A lot of the materials from the collection are used from an ethics standpoint, which is something that can apply to any career field — including my future in politics.
Q: How has your experience positioned you for the future?
KM: The project was very independently led, so getting the opportunity to create something however I wanted was a very useful experience. It also helped prepare me for my summer internship because a lot of the work I will be doing will be independent.
Q: Did your experience open your eyes to any other opportunities that you hadn’t previously considered?
KM: I never thought I would be interested in anything science or health-related, but after working at WHL, I became really interested in the conversations on ethics surrounding medical history. It opened me up to the possibility of enrolling in classes that I might not normally take.
Q: What would you say to others about why it is important to connect with the University of Minnesota Libraries?
KM: You learn so much in such a little time. That is the main take away I got from just one year here, and I am really grateful for it. You also get to connect with such knowledgeable people who care about your success!
We’re on the move!
In 2020, the Wangensteen Historical Library will be moving into the newly-constructed Health Sciences Education Center, supporting student success stories like Kaitlyn Minarsich’s.
Learn more about our move and how you can help build skills to build bright futures, supporting learners at all levels as they apply knowledge from primary source material to gain essential skills in research, writing, and critical thinking.