" I now know that I want to work in the education department of a museum. I really want kids to be able to have fun with history and enjoy learning and exploring all history, whether it’s their family's history or the country's history."
Program of Study: History
Career Interest: Museum Curator/Educator
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
My main responsibility was to look through Maryland court cases dating from 1865 - 1900 that involved discrimination, segregation and civil rights violations. Initially, I was supposed to help design an exhibit, but I ran out of time, so instead I created lesson plans based on the Maryland state education requirements for History. I also wrote an extensive research paper. Other than that, I helped out with moving, filing, taking inventories of the archives.
How did you find your internship?
I had a lot of trouble getting an internship. I applied to pretty much every museum and historical society in Philadelphia but didn't find anyone who wanted me. My mom actually found The National Archives and Records Administration - mid Atlantic region in Philadelphia. I was lucky that she found it and that they really wanted me.
What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
Early in my search process, I used the Career Development Office’s online internship/job search database. It was somewhat helpful because it listed some places that I wouldn't have thought of applying to.
Why did you choose your internship?
What factored into your search and applying? I chose to intern at the archives primarily because it was the only available option, but also because I was really interested in learning about archival work. I was also interested in learning about exhibit design and research.
What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
I was concerned that I didn’t have any experience with archives or museum work because my knowledge is primarily in research. But the people I worked with were more than happy to teach me anything I wanted to know, and did not care that I was new to the field.
What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
I really wanted to get a feel for what its like working in a museum-type environment, as well as make any connections that may be useful in the future.
How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
Working at NARA definitely confirmed my interest in wanting to work in history. I now know that I want to work in the education department of a museum. I really want kids to be able to have fun with history and enjoy learning and exploring all history, whether it’s their family's history or the country's history. I also did an independent study this semester based on the research I did at NARA. I continued researching the civil rights movement during reconstruction.
What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
The most challenging part of my internship other than just finding one was working in an environment that I was not educated in. I’ve always wanted to learn more about archives, so the internship gave me the perfect opportunity, but I felt somewhat lost when I first got there. Once I started asking questions, and my supervisors and colleagues told me what to do, it was much easier. The initial challenge was learning the archival process.
What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
I learned a lot from my experience and I accomplished exactly what I wanted. I was so happy that I was able to finally find an internship with people who really wanted to work with me, and who were more than happy to show me the ropes.
Any funny/ embarrassing things happen during your internship?
One day when we had a workshop for teachers on how to use the archives. There were about 30 of them, plus us three interns. My supervisor wanted them to split up into groups to do an activity. When he said, "split up into groups" everyone just kind of sat there. No one knew how to split up. Someone finally yelled "we were all history majors...we don't know how to do math!" Everyone thought that was really funny.
How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
I think my internship definitely helped to prepare me for the real world. Besides the tediousness of waking up at 7 am every morning and taking the train to work, it gave me insight into the field of history and what career options are out there.
What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
I would tell future interns to get an early start. Speaking from experience, it is a competitive world out there, and even if you think no one else is applying for the same position, they are. Talk to everyone you know about possible options - connections are often the way to get the internship you want. Also, be open to learning anything and everything the people you work with want to teach you; they know a lot! Most importantly, have fun.