Hands-On History: Kristen Cockerill Interns at Alexandria Archaeology Museum

Hands-On History: Kristen Cockerill Interns at Alexandria Archaeology Museum
Kristen Cockerill (right) representing Alexandria Archeology at Alexandria’s building safety day.

Where was your internship and how did you find it?

My internship was with the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, and I found it through George Mason’s history internship website. I was interested because I had previously attended a ceramics workshop with them at their Shuter’s Hill site while I was a student at Northern Virginia Community College.

What were your main responsibilities on the job? 

I had two sections of my internship, one working with the museum educator, hands-on in the museum, and the other was virtual work with the collections manager. The in-person responsibilities with the museum educator varied a lot from week to week, as her job is very multi-faceted. I assisted her with preparing for public events, worked on transferring the exhibit material into a format that was website (and translation service) compatible, I assisted with the production of exhibits, as well as assisting with the installation of a new permanent exhibit. The virtual internship had me primarily transferring data from archaeological site reports to spreadsheets. This was in the pursuit of a future database containing all of the objects owned by the department. I also was assigned readings and videos on artifact conservation and typical museum policies, and then I would have video meetings with the collections manager every week to discuss them.

What were the most rewarding aspects of your internship? 

I really enjoyed getting access to career focused conversations with women already employed in my future field. I got information about what education or experience requirements possible job opportunities would have, and what I could do to make myself more hirable in the museum education space.

What was your biggest accomplishment?

I got to help install a permanent exhibit redesign for an exhibit that hadn’t been changed in over 20 years. I was able to decide where certain things should be located, as well as assisting with mounting artifacts in their exhibit case. I am proud of the work that I did, and I got very positive feedback from the museum educator and the collections manager I was working with.

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

It taught me many things, but primarily how many different types of jobs exist for a professional historian. I learned that even historians are better at their jobs when they work well with a team. I also learned that professional historians are never done learning, it is a continuous pursuit of knowledge that is constantly changing.

Did anything surprise you?

I was really surprised by how much the museum was involved in the community of Alexandria. Every week, the museum educator was working on a public outreach event of some kind, and all of the people I worked with were involved in public outreach in one form or another.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your internship experience?

It was an incredible opportunity, and I would recommend it to any student trying to find a local museum internship.