In high school, Katelyn Legacy ’16 wanted nothing to do with history, but that all changed when she arrived at SUNY Potsdam her freshman year. She went on to declare a double major in history and mathematics with a minor in museum studies—later completing an invaluable internship at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Mass.
It all started when she took a history class with Dr. M.J. Heisey. “I really bonded with her. She kind of took me under her wing. The whole history department was wonderful,” Legacy said.
Heisey’s history classes allowed Legacy to develop her own lens through which to view the world. Her family became the focus of a research project during Heisey’s oral history class. “I’m really close with my family and genealogy fascinates me, so I actually ended up interviewing my dad and my aunt about growing up on a family dairy farm. That was really rewarding to learn more about my grandparents through the eyes of their kids,” she said.
For another project, Legacy looked at businesses in her home town of Chateaugay, N.Y., back in the 1950s. She connected with the Chateaugay Historical Society to flesh out her research project, a collaboration that she parlayed into an internship with them (as part of her museum studies minor), and she went on to serve as one of its board members, too.
Legacy is now completing her master’s degree in library and information science at Simmons College in Boston, Mass., and last summer she had the opportunity to intern at the JFK Presidential Library. While there, she was tasked with reading through oral history transcripts from interviews with people connected to the Kennedy family. She created a table of contents for each interview and digitized the transcripts to be uploaded to the library’s website. Legacy said that it was really interesting because the interviews were conducted with many individuals, from “very high-ranking officials, heads of other countries, to people who took care of their dog or built the chimney in one of their houses. It was a very broad range of people,” she said.
Legacy also worked on another project at the JFK Presidential Library where she sorted through condolence letters received by Jackie Kennedy after the assassination of her husband. “There were kids who sent letters and had done drawings and written poems. That was really cool to see,” Legacy said.
With so many hands-on learning experiences under her belt, she’s been busy looking for a job in the field of library science or a position focused on working with historical archives. She recently landed a job working for the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass., an independent conservation laboratory that offers conservation treatment, digital imaging, and audio preservation services. Legacy will be working in the imaging department at Northeast Document Conservation where she will help oversee the digitization and reformatting of a variety of materials, manuscripts and nitrate negatives. Just one example that hearkens back to her alma mater, the firm completed a project to restore and preserve the original 1816 charter establishing the St. Lawrence Academy, SUNY Potsdam’s predecessor institution. The center also created exact museum-quality framed replicas for the College to display in conjunction with its bicentennial.
Thinking back to her time at SUNY Potsdam, Legacy said “I definitely got my foundation, both in education and as a person here. Especially during the summer when I was an orientation leader, I gained a lot of confidence. I feel like I grew as a person during my time here, which allowed me to go on and do all of the things I’ve been able to since then. This is my home away from home.”