As both the semester and my coursework for the Digital Public Humanities Graduate Certificate come to an end, it is time to reflect on both my internships and the DPH Certificate program itself.
Before I begin, I want to note that I have spent my final weeks at The National Postal Museum researching two different projects. One is the life and career of the spectacular vocalist Marian Anderson, and the other is the history of and politics behind the Breast Cancer Research Semi-Postal stamp. I learned so much about both of these topics and look forward to seeing the print and digital work that Calvin creates based partly on my research.
Dr. Brennan presented us with a series of questions for our final blog posts. Since I have been blessed with two different internships this year, I will be discussing both of them.
What did you learn?
As I noted in earlier blog posts, I learned so much during my first semester internship with the Education Division of RRCHNM. Most importantly, I learned more about what a dynamic place RRCHNM is and what it was like to work with colleagues who are very passionate about history, education, and digital work. I hope that I am able to be a part of a team like this one again. Jennifer and Nate were full of ideas and were very supportive of mine. They were fabulous editors through the many drafts of my stereoscope module, and Nate’s detailed instructions about Drupal were so helpful as I added my module to Hidden in Plain Sight. I loved doing the research on stereoscopes and stereographs, and I enjoyed working on all parts of that project.
This semester, while interning at The National Postal Museum, I learned how many projects a curator has going at once. Calvin is working on at least five projects right now. I’m so impressed by his organizational skills and his dedication to his work. I also learned that curators collaborate with outside experts, such as Peter, on various projects. Another thing I’ve learned is that there’s often quite a long time between the beginning of work on a project and the final on ground exhibition, digital exhibition, or book. Of course, my research taught me many things about Tobacco stamps during Reconstruction and their producers, African-American soldiers during World War I, F.O.C. Darley, Marian Anderson, and the Breast Cancer Research Semi-Postal Stamp.
The two experiences had some similarities, but they also differed in crucial ways. Both internships included extensive research, something that I love to do. My research at RRCHNM focused on one topic, while I conducted research on several topics at The National Postal Museum. During both semesters, I collaborated with others, and I was so fortunate to have been associated with generous people who made me feel part of the team. Next, both internships included projects which are or will be presented to the public. I’m honored to be a participant in projects which do or will reach and teach so many people.
One thing that differed was that Jennifer and Nate encouraged me to find a topic for Hidden in Plain Sight and encouraged and edited along the way, but the stereoscope project was one that I was able to create from start to finish. At The National Postal Museum, on the other hand, I was the person responsible for research on several topics, but I did not have a chance to be a part of the entire process. If I had been there for the whole year, perhaps that would have been possible. Finally, my internship at RRCHNM was, as expected, very digital. I had my audience in mind at all times, as Dr. Leon taught me, and I strove to write in an accessible way. Nate provided me with extremely detailed instructions about working with Drupal, and I now know how to work with this content management system. From what I have heard, my work for Calvin will contribute to on ground exhibitions, digital exhibitions, and a book about American women. I look forward to seeing all of these projects in the future.
Overall, my internships taught me quite a bit about collaboration, gave me an opportunity to learn more about history, and confirmed that this field is right for me.
What did you enjoy most about the internship? The least?
At RRCHNM’s Education Division, I loved working with Jennifer and Nate and learning Drupal. It’s also been very rewarding to read what the users of my stereoscope module have had to say about it and stereoscopes. Doing numerous edits was not my favorite thing, although I’m an English professor and know that they were necessary. Jennifer and Nate were extremely generous with their time reading the drafts and were so helpful with suggestions!
One thing that I enjoyed a lot at The National Postal Museum was contributing to so many projects. I only wish that I had been able to be involved with curating the digital and on ground exhibitions related to my research topics.
I feel so fortunate to have had both of these internships!!
How will this experience be useful to you as you move forward with your own professional development?
Now I have seen an educational digital public humanities project from start to finish and have been able to read what others have thought of my work. This experience has been very valuable and I will look for ways to be involved with similar projects in the future.
My internship at the National Postal museum taught me more about curatorship and reinforced how much I want to apply what I learned at RRCHNM as a curator for both digital and on ground exhibitions.
How did you apply what you learned in your coursework in the internship?
My coursework helped at RRCHNM because the courses had taught me about the importance of paying close attention to the details while learning new digital skills. As noted above, I also kept my audience in mind while creating the stereoscope module, an important lesson that I learned in the DPH Certificate program.
I learned about many digital sites during my courses, and I utilized several of them when I was researching topics for Calvin. I also was careful about copyright issues related to what I sent to him. That’s one thing I learned in the DPH Certificate program that I had not been aware of before.
How has the internship increased your understanding of digital public humanities work?
My internships have increased my understanding of the importance of collaboration, of the need for high-quality work, of the joy of sharing public humanities projects with others, and of the way that digital work is changing how people learn about history and the humanities. It is an exciting field and I am so happy to be a part of it.
How well prepared did you feel the coursework prepared you for your internship?
The coursework prepared me very well for my internship with RRCHNM’s Education Division. It gave me confidence that I could handle whatever Jennifer and Nate asked me to learn and produce. While the coursework was less tied to my internship at The National Postal Museum, I am thrilled that I was able to have this internship as one of my courses.
It’s more the long-term positive influence that the coursework will have on my life. I have learned to interact with so many digital tools, I’ve had an opportunity to contribute to several projects, I’ve learned about copyright, I’ve learned to make screencasts, and I have come to appreciate how crucial collaboration and a positive team can be. Due to the courses, I have created Omeka projects which I had been dreaming about for years, and I’ve been able to teach others to work on and with them. I’m determined to work on my Moses Dresser Phillips and His World Site and my A Woman of the Century: A Crowdsourcing Project of the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries sites until they are complete (or as long as I live). Over the past year, some of my students have used the A Woman of the Century Twenty-First Century Contributor’s Project from Dr. Kelly’s course, and I plan to use it for students and contributors in the future.
Please include other comments about challenges you faced, unexpected fun discoveries
My time in the Digital Public Humanities Graduate Certificate has been both very challenging and extremely rewarding. I’m so glad to have worked with the members of my cohort, and I wish them all the best. I will always be very grateful to the talented and generous people who have been associated with my time at George Mason: Brian Platt, Stephen Robertson, Sharon Leon, Mills Kelly, Sheila Brennan, Jennifer Rosenfeld, Nate Sleeter, Calvin Mitchell, and Peter Schwartz. I hope to see them at conferences in the future and look forward to viewing their future digital work!