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.
Today was my internship orientation and official first day at the Field Museum. Overall, the day went really well (after my mad dash for the Metra train this morning) and I’m looking forward to what’s to come. Plus, who can be mad at the great views from Museum Campus of the lake and Lakeshore Drive?
So what will I be doing this summer? Well, without drowning you in the details (okay I’m still getting a grasp of it too) I’ll sum up the projects I’ll be working on. The largest and overarching project I’ll be focusing on, along with fellow interns and staff from the The Action Center/Environment, Culture, and Conservation Center, is research for the proposed Calumet Heritage Corridor. Heritage corridors or areas are large geographical areas that have multiple historical, cultural, and environmental assets; their designation comes from the National Park Service. The Field Museum and partners such as the Calumet Stewardship Initiative are working to increase environmental stewardship in a large area stretching from southeastern Chicagoland to northwest Indiana. The Calumet region has a number of notable features from its ethnic communities to its industrial history (which has periodically been detrimental in the community as well). I’ll be working on research of that region through participant observation and interviews. Learn more here: http://www.calumetstewardship.org/
That research, combined with other inquiries into the diverse urban communities of Chicago, will also be used to build what the Field is calling their Contemporary Urban Collection. The collection will attempt to lead ethnological collections towards an examination of modern urban people, not just indigenous peoples. Read more about that here: http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/department/ecco/contemporary-urban-collections
And did I mention my supervisor bought my fellow interns and I each a hot dog for lunch? And not any hot dog, of course a Chicago-style hot dog. Be jealous.