David Catalan

David Catalan
BA, Sociology and Modern Greek, 2012
International Institute Individual Fellowship

David participated in the Central European University Professional Internship Program in Budapest where he lived for seven weeks. While there, he worked at the Cold War History Research Center, a small nonprofit organization dedicated to publicizing and disseminating online English-language resources on Cold War history.

David's Internship

Although I thought that my internship placement would be in the field of human rights, I instead landed at the Cold War History Research Center, a very small non-profit organization dedicated to publicizing and disseminating online English-language resources on Cold War history. While my placement there was certainly a surprise to me, the work introduced me to scholarly life in archives. Indeed, the best place to study the Cold War is in the very setting of the former Eastern Bloc.

David's Projects

My first task was to edit 600 pages of English-language materials. Over the course of the past year the center had amassed hundreds of materials authored by past interns, the vast majority of whom used English as a second language. As one of the few native English-speakers, I was expected to revise these documents for correct grammar and idiomatic expressions. The editing process was tedious. Indeed it took just over four weeks to finish this task.

Afterward, I worked collaboratively with the other interns at the archives to gather information on important Cold War events. Using Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, a collection cataloging major world events, I recorded events that occurred during specific years. The center’s ultimate goal was to compile all this information through 1989, arrange the entire database by years, and develop chronologies to be posted online for the aid of researchers and scholars around the globe.

I was amazed to find how vast these storehouses of knowledge really were. I worked at the Open Society Archives in Budapest for many weeks. I learned from one of the staff members that this building alone contained original Cold War documents in several dozen languages that can be freely viewed by the public. These documents originated from the Cold War itself–the pages recounting the 1956 Revolution and the actual transcripts voiced by broadcasters of Radio Free Europe!

David's Takeaways

As one of my old study abroad instructors once expressed, “The best way to get to know a new place when you’re traveling is to read a history book and today’s newspaper.” The value of this axiom also speaks to historical sociology in highlighting that past events inform current issues and that current issues shape our understanding of past events.