Hands-On History: Teralynn Hulse at the Octagon Museum in Washington, DC

Hands-On History: Teralynn Hulse at the Octagon Museum in Washington, DC
Hulse (2nd from right) preparing to sift through old artifacts in the attic of the Octagon Museum

Where was your internship and how did you find it?

I found my internship at the Octagon Museum in a rather unconventional way! I was a DC ghost tour guide and our first stop was at the Octagon Museum. One night I was giving a tour and the door flew open and there stood the manager of the Octagon, Amanda. She gave us all a look, and then with a huge smile said, “Do you wanna come in?” 

From there I started volunteering because I was so fascinated with the home, and before I knew it, Amanda was offering me an internship!

What were your main responsibilities on the job? 

My main responsibilities at the Octagon were giving tours to people, helping catalog items, and creating the virtual tour. I already knew the tours from my time volunteering, but cataloging items and creating the virtual tour were new challenges that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

What were the most rewarding aspects of your internship? 

The most rewarding aspect of my internship was the experience I got working behind the scenes. I never knew all the things that went into keeping a museum running functionally. Working our way through the attic was truly a nightmare, but it was so rewarding to see all of our hard work when we were done. 

What was your biggest accomplishment?

Making the virtual tour took a lot of time and effort. I often play around with the idea of being a digital historian, but I never know if I want to delve into it fully. But this was a fun project, and I was so satisfied with how it came out. 

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

No day is the same!! You really have to roll with the punches—one day, your funding could suddenly look different, and what you were working on yesterday is not what you are working on today. There was one point where I was studying paint samples only to go in and be told all my work was for nothing because they found a clause in a contract saying the paint couldn’t be changed! 

Did anything surprise you?

I’m surprised by how much I will miss this. I thought it would be like a class, or even a job where by the end of it you’re sprinting towards the finish line just to be done with it. I loved my internship and wish it was far longer. I will be continuing to volunteer at the Octagon for as long as they’ll have me. 

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

Amanda is truly an amazing teacher and mentor. I fully recommend her and the Octagon for anyone who is interested in small museums.