As of last Wednesday, my internship with the Field Museum is over. I’m grateful for the opportunities and experiences I had while working there. I really got to see some neighborhoods of Chicago in a new way. I’ve been to the South Chicago and East Side, for instance, and have traveled as far as Porter, Indiana. I wasn’t aware of how involved the Field Museum is involved in conservation within the Chicagoland and Calumet region. My internship has educated me more to the connections that can exist between large museums, historic preservation and environmental conservation.
So what’s next? Classes start for me again for my second and last year of my Master’s degree (yay!). This semester I’ll also be entering another internship, more details on that soon. I also will be a co-mentor to an undergraduate class who is working on an exhibit that will be featured at Loyola’s library (formally the Karlchek Information Commons). Expect to see more posts from me next month and possible a blog name change. This isn’t really goodbye, its auf wierdersehen.
What happens when a public historian temporarily becomes an ethnographer? That’s part of what I’ll be finding out this summer. I only have a basic understanding of anthropology and once dabbled in anthropology during my undergraduate career. I took on anthropology and sociology as a minor my junior year (after my break up with my secondary education minor). I ended up only pursuing sociology, although I did well in the anthropology classes I did take. I suppose I just couldn’t leave anthropology alone.
Last two weeks in my internship my intern supervisors began to advise us on how to conduct interviews (I have a different oral history background), how to write field notes, and the like. With my first field note write, I think I’m getting into the swing of things and soon I’ll be conducting interviews/oral history. It is interesting to look at heritage in a different formalized and qualitative way.
Last Wednesday, I also attended a Beyond the Beach/Indiana Dunes tourism meeting in Porter, Indiana as part of participant observation and in the stead of Field Museum staff member. Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail, by the way, is multiple trails used to direct visitors through a number of natural and cultural resources in the Indiana Dunes region. I learned quite a bit about the work that goes into obtaining grant funding for historical and environmentally-based tourist programs such as Beyond the Beach. The meeting was also an opportunity to learn about what resources are valued in that Indiana Dunes region, which is being considered as a part of the Calumet Heritage Area.
Apparently, going to something called Pierogi Fest is my internship duties description and I’m happy with that. And if you’re thinking “will all of her blog posts have food references in the title?” The answer is no…maybe.
I want to briefly mention what I did today at my internship. After some required reading (assigned from a syllabus, no less), I’m starting to get a better idea of what these projects are about. In a meeting today we went over guides for doing interviews/oral histories. I can see that this internship is all about the intersection between heritage, industrial and labor history as well as environmental conservation. Personally, I’m happy to see attempts that make heritage and history useful for communities. As a public historian, my greatest hope for my future career is that my work can actually achieve something positive for an individual or group. I don’t want everything I do to remain in a book or a museum case (mind you I still enjoy studying the family tree of the eighteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt and other similarly “useful” historical knowledge).
I wonder if any of you would like to comment on what responsibilities historians have to the the pubic. Can historians simultaneously be activists?