1) Where was your internship and how did you find it?
I completed my internship at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. I had already been working on site for almost a year in the Guest Services Department when I saw on their website that they were looking for an Education Department Intern for the Fall 2017 semester. Realizing how wonderful of an opportunity this would be, I applied for the position and fortunately was offered the job. A part of me was wary about completing an internship at a site where I already worked and was familiar with and I was worried I might miss an opportunity to get another kind of experience elsewhere. Thankfully, this was not the case and I learned so much more about George Washington, his family, and his estate than I had before. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and I am very glad I did it.
2) What were your main responsibilities on the job?
My main responsibilities were threefold: to help with the data analysis and report writing for the Summer Teacher Institute, to maintain a list of Mount Vernon Master Educators, and to evaluate Mount Vernon’s online digital materials. The first project was mostly data organization and analysis, but it prepared me well for my final project where I conducted a test of Mount Vernon’s online teacher resources. This project was especially rewarding because I was tasked with creating an evaluation plan and testing materials, communicating with teachers across the country, and making formal recommendations to Mount Vernon’s education department team. Additionally, I was involved in creating educational worksheets and posters as well as assisting with blog post edits and editing a report that was subsequently presented to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.
3) What were the most rewarding aspects of your internship?
The most rewarding part of my internship--aside from being able to remain at one of the most awesome historic sites in the nation and studying the life of our Founding Father--was creating materials for Mount Vernon to feature on their website, at workshops, and at conferences. In addition, I conducted a research project with guidance from my supervisor. I made a real contribution to Mount Vernon’s digital resource library and my evaluation of our teacher and student materials will be useful to Mount Vernon’s education department going forward. I got to make recommendations to senior staff members for how Mount Vernon should support K-12 educators – who can say something like that? It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
4) What was your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment was the digital resource project, as it was entirely of my own creation, with editing and comments from my supervisor, of course. But this was something that I had developed myself and implemented largely on my own. I was the sole communicator with the teachers involved in this project and I was the one who developed and analyzed the questions and responses we received. I was very happy to report that our digital materials are successfully helping students to learn more about George Washington and his world and that Mount Vernon is making a difference in the education of the nation’s youth.
5) What did your internship teach you about being a professional historian? Did anything surprise you?
Money is a big factor. You don’t really think about the financial side of keeping history alive for the public when you are just starting out in the public history field. But there is a lot of money involved in this process and a lot of decisions are based on whether or not there are available funds.
Another thing is ownership. The rights to objects and images can be very complicated when you are trying to develop materials for public viewing. Several times when I was developing worksheets or posters for the education department I was asked whether the images I was using were from Mount Vernon’s own collection. Ownership often determined what images I featured, even if my first choice was owned by another library or museum. Also, Mount Vernon is very strict about having no photography in the mansion or in the museum exhibit on slavery because not all of the items are owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.
Lastly, I learned that being a professional historian means becoming proficient with several different tools and technologies as well as working with people from all different backgrounds. History is such a multidisciplinary field and requires a variety of skills and experiences.
6) Is there anything else you would like to share about your internship experience?
For anyone interested in George Washington or 18th century America, Mount Vernon is the place to be. Everyone there is extremely knowledgeable and you will have access to resources that you would not be able to get at another site. The things they are doing there are truly innovative, and they continue the legacy of Ann Pamela Cunningham and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. The skills and professional connections you will establish here will help you move on in your career. I am so very thankful for this opportunity and I cannot wait to see where this internship will lead me in the future.
February 20, 2018