1) Where was your internship and how did you find it?
For my internship this semester, I worked at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly, Virginia. Sully was built in 1794 by Richard Bland Lee, northern Virginia’s first Congressman, and is one of the few remaining houses built in the Federalist Period in the area. The museum consists of the main house, 3 original out buildings, 2 reconstructed out buildings, a visitor center, and many miles of trails. The three floors of the house are set up to look just as it did when the Lee’s occupied it over 225 years ago. I found this internship through one of the many emails sent out to history majors from the department. I am incredibly thankful for these emails because without them I would have never found this job.
2) What were your main responsibilities on the job?
I had many responsibilities during my internship. One of my main responsibilities was to conduct tours when we were short on volunteers. The tours last around an hour and go through the three floors of the house. Some of my other responsibilities included assisting and teaching our merit badge classes, organizing and setting up special programs, creating and designing special exhibits, and other daily responsibilities that go along with the running of a museum.
3) What were the most rewarding aspects of your internship?
The most rewarding aspect of this internship has been the relationship I have made with guests. While I do not get to give many tours to guests, the few that I have given have been incredibly special. I am incredibly passionate about history, so sharing that passion with others is something I truly cherish. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the joy on guests faces after a tour.
4) What was your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment at Sully Historic Site was strengthening my ability to work with children, especially when teaching them difficult historical concepts. Growing up I was never really around children that often, so I have always found it hard to connect to children. However, many museums, especially Sully receive much of their revenue from children’s programs and activities. I was extremely nervous coming into this internship because I knew one of my main jobs was going to be assisting and eventually leading our children’s activities. It was hard at first to become comfortable with them, however, now I am teaching scout badges and school groups. My favorite tours are the ones that have multiple children on them because they remind me of myself when I was a kid.
5) What did your internship teach you about being a professional historian? Did anything surprise you?
My internship really taught me that being a professional historian is all about collaboration. It really requires a team effort to create a successful museum such as Sully. Everyone who works there brings a unique skill and perspective to the table. This allows for different people to become experts on different things in the museum. For example, we have a historian who focuses just on the enslaved experience at Sully, another who focuses on the genealogy of the family lived there, and another who focuses on the social experience of entertaining guests at Sully. By having different people focusing on different aspects at Sully, it allows for people to go more in depth on a subject and teach that to the other staff who work there.
6) Is there anything else you would like to share about your internship experience?
The last thing I would like to share about my experience is just how important I feel it is to intern at different places during your undergraduate experience. Without this internship, I would not have found my passion for public history and museum studies. I am also excited to report that I was just hired at Sully Historic Site as a part-time employee!
May 16, 2018