Hands On History at the National Museum of American History

Hands On History at the National Museum of American History

Amanda worked on "What the Cluck?" event on the history of chickens as food, which is described in more detail here and below, as Amnda gives her account  of the experience


Hands-On History Profile


  • Where was your internship and how did you find it?


My internship was in the Office of Programs and Strategic Initiatives at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. I found out about it from the Museum’s twitter, @amhistorymuseum.

  • What were your main responsibilities on the job?

As an intern in the Office of Programs and Strategic Initiatives at the National Museum of American History, I learned a lot about how a large-scale museum works, both behind the scenes and in front of the public. While there, I researched individual stories about the history of artificial lighting; worked the “Raise It Up!” campaign to bring national attention to the museum; and assisted with the “After Hours” programs, which are designed to bring local audiences into the museum in fun and entertaining ways. Each of these different projects taught me a lot about what it means to work as part of a team, how important programming is to engaging the public, and what it means to represent the history of America on a national stage.

  • What were the most rewarding aspects of your internship?

I think the most rewarding aspect of my internship was working as part of a team. While everyone has different jobs, everyone is still working toward creating a unique visitor experience. I loved being part of the museum and contributing to events and programs that shaped how visitors understood American history.

  • What was your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment was assisting with the “After Hours” public events at the museum. This program includes panel discussions on topics in food history, which are followed by food, drink, and conversation. One of the events, playfully entitled, “What the Cluck?,” discussed the history of chicken in American cuisine. Social learning is incredibly important and a way to bring visitors into the museum. I developed the greeting procedures for these events, which established visitor expectations for the entire evening.

  • What did your internship teach you about being a professional historian? Did anything surprise you?

While it did not surprise me, my internship helped broadened my perspective on what professional historians can do in their careers. I think many times people imagine historians tucked away in the archives or typing away on their computer. And while I did see plenty of that (the archives are amazing to look through), working in the Office of Programs and Strategic Initiatives helped remind me that there are alternative options that are much more interactive. Getting the public to engage with history in fun and informative ways is just as essential as actually curating the exhibitions.

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

I would like to encourage everyone to look into internships at the National Museum of American History. It is such an amazing place to learn about history and share that knowledge with others.