Heather is a senior humanities major in the honors program with minors in French and history at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She a member of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society and holds the position of editor-in-chief of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods’ literary arts magazine publication, Aurora. In her free time, she volunteers with the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence.
This fall semester I interned at the Native American Museum at Dobbs Park in Terre Haute, IN. The museum is run by the Terre Haute Parks Department because it resides on park property. Nestled in the woods, the Native American Museum serves the Terre Haute area through community education on the culture and history of the native peoples of North America, particularly on the peoples of the Woodlands and the Great Lakes regions.
The primary goal for the Native American Museum can be summarized as educational outreach to all types of people of all ages within the community. Oftentimes education is focused on just children and young adults instead of including adults and seniors. Though the museum tends to be especially relevant to children, I find it both worthwhile and admirable that the museum directs itself to people of all ages, as I believe that learning in the community should never end.
As a humanities major, I was able to take a multidisciplinary approach to my work at the museum. I was given the wonderful opportunity to use my knowledge based on my background in the French language and in history to create a new exhibit focused on the fused culture of French and native peoples in colonial French North America. This exhibit has given me the chance to draw upon classes I have taken as a humanities major in theology, history, French and women’s studies.
Not only was I able to research and put together an exhibit based on my interests, but I was also able to explore many more various projects and tasks. I gained experience in working with the general public, helping with craft and storytelling activities with Scout troops, and creating eye-catching signs to garner attention for museum programs. I also worked to reorganize the museum’s reference library, including digitizing the museum’s accession log for library materials. I feel especially proud of the latter project and of my research and creation of the exhibit on French Native culture. Yet I feel that all of these are very valuable experiences which I can take with me to demonstrate both skill and experience for future academic and employment opportunities.
This internship can be flexible and can work for a variety of students from a wide array of areas of study. One does not necessarily need to major in history or cultural studies for this internship to be a good fit. My supervisor is creative in finding projects which match the specialties and interests of her student employees and interns. This internship can be research and writing intensive for English or anthropology majors or it could be hands-on focused for students interested in the educational or recreational/tourism aspects of the museum. For me it was just the right balance of research and hands-on curatorial learning.
My internship working at a small museum such as the Native American Museum was an enlightening and confirming experience for me. Curatorial and museum work has always been an attractive possibility to me and this internship experience has only confirmed that. Given my first-hand opportunities at the Native American Museum, I will be keeping museum and cultural heritage studies and opportunities in mind for the future.