History major interns with U.S. Holocaust Museum

History major interns with U.S. Holocaust Museum
This was taken while introducing History Unfolded to professors visiting the museum.

Hands on History Profile

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington D.C.)

Megan Storkan

1) Where was your internship and how did you find it?

Since September 2018, I have been working at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) aims to stand as a “living memorial to the Holocaust that inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.” One way it does this is through its online digital learning tools. I am currently an intern for one of those tools call History Unfolded. History Unfolded is a digital citizen historian project under the USHMM’s Museum Education and Digital Media Department. History Unfolded stemmed from a growing scholarly question of the extent of American knowledge of the events of the Holocaust as they were happening. Participants in this project, referred to as citizen historians, are asked to explore their local newspaper archives to find articles from 1933 to 1945 in order to create a better understanding of the information Americans had access to during that time.

2) What were your main responsibilities on the job?

To create our database, citizen historians submit newspaper articles to our database in order to be reviewed. This project aims to create a comprehensive database of metadata that can be used by scholars and historians. My main job as the History Unfolded intern is to review the submissions that come from citizen historians. This entails reviewing the articles’ submitted metadata to make sure it matches the original data, evaluating and interpreting each article’s relevance to the project, organizing each article into its respective event module, and embedding any HTML codes needed for the submissions to be properly placed in the database. Another main responsibility of mine as the History Unfolded intern is to connect with the citizen historian community of the project. Without the community of students, teachers, and life-long learners that participate in History Unfolded, the project would not exist. Thus, it is very important for us to continually engage and connect with the community. I have done this through numerous community wide emails, social media posts, and blog posts, classroom and virtual video visits to various groups, planning and hosting community wide research events, and most importantly, daily feedback to individual citizen historians on their submissions through emails.

This is personally my favorite part of the internship. I love connecting with people and teaching them about history. I am incredibly passionate about Holocaust studies and feel it is very important to our world today, so any chance I get to connect and teach through this medium is incredible.

3) What were the most rewarding aspects of your internship?

A few weeks ago, I received a message from a high school student in Arizona. She explains, “it's important that as a new generation, we work to understand history so that we can recognize when it may be repeating. With that, I hope this article can attribute to our knowledge of the past, and more importantly, the future." For me, this was the highest compliment the project could have received. It just shows that it really is hitting home with the users, especially the students. This quote truly encapsulates what History Unfolded is all about, and to have a student so eloquently express this really shows why this is an important project.

4) What was your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment at History Unfolded has been the overall professional development I have seen within myself. Over the course of the past year I have been asked to constantly step outside of my comfort zone. While scary and uncomfortable at times, I have been fortunate to have supportive colleagues at USHMM who all want to see me succeed. Overall, the growth in me intrapersonal communication skills with my colleagues has been tremendous, to the point that I sometimes forget I am an intern.

5) What did your internship teach you about being a professional historian?

My internship really taught me that being a professional historian is all about collaboration. Everyone who works on History Unfolded brings a unique skills and perspectives to the table. Collaborating with others ensures that the content you are developing is the held to the highest standard it can be. This takes a lot of trust to be formed among the people you are working with. While at times working with others can be difficult, when done well it is the most rewarding aspect of being a historian.

6) Did anything surprise you?

I was very surprised at the connections and relationships I made with the users of the project. Because the resource is entirely online, I felt as though the community of citizen historians would be virtually nonexistent and that I would not have meaningful relationships with the users. I can happily say that this is very far from the truth. I will miss all the users so much, even though I have not met any in person.

7) 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, especially within a large institution!


(Click on image to enlarge)

History Unfolded Third Year Mark