October 05, 2015

Interning at the Museum: Emma Strongin, Media

The blog series Interning at the Museum highlights the projects and accomplishments of the National Museum of the American Indian's interns. Each intern completes a 10-week internship in a department at one of the museum's three facilities—the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland; or George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. The museum’s Internship Program offers sessions in the spring, summer, and fall. The next deadline for applications—for the spring 2016 session—is November 20, 2015. These interviews feature members of this year's recently completed summer session. —Sarah Frost 

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Emma Strongin helped webcast museum events and developed mobile app tours.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

My name is Emma Strongin, and I’m from Takoma Park, Maryland. I go to Rochester Institute of Technology and am majoring in media arts and technology (we like to call ourselves media architects because we “build, shape, and form media”) and hope to minor in philosophy, museum studies, or both. 

What department did you intern in this summer, and what projects were you working on?

I spent the summer on the media staff at NMAI. I learned a lot about the webcasting process, which is something I knew nothing about prior to coming here. It’s been a great learning experience, and I had a lot of fun. I also did some digital archival work for old webcasts and helped out with the new mobile app tours here at the museum. 

Why did you decide to intern at NMAI?

This was actually my third summer at NMAI. The first two were spent as a volunteer for conservation, and I also worked on digital archiving and various other volunteer-y tasks. Applying for an official internship seemed like the next logical step—especially since I love working at the museum—and since I just finished my first year in a media-based major, I thought I would try out a new area that matched up with what I was studying at school. 

What was your favorite aspect of your internship?

My favorite part of my internship was definitely the lovely community of people here, the wonderful events and exhibits, and the opportunity to learn in a real-world setting. 

What have you learned and what do you hope to achieve because of this internship?

As I mentioned, I spent a lot of time on webcasts this summer. Before coming here, I had no idea what a webcast was or how they even worked. I really enjoyed using the internet and technology to share what’s going on at the museum with people around the world. This is especially important for a museum like NMAI, because we are so focused on the Native community. People aren’t always able to make it to the museum for festivals and events, so we make it possible for them to stay involved from wherever they happen to be.

How has interning helped you understand your own cultural interests?

I am not Native, but interning here has definitely helped me gain a whole new level of understanding and respect for the cultural practices of others. People here are so proud of their various heritages, and I think that’s a truly wonderful thing. 

Do you have advice for aspiring interns?

I think it’s important to note that there is a place here for everyone. No matter what your major, interest, hobby, etc., the museum has a place for you to help out and learn. Also, as a lifelong resident of the DC area, I think spending the summer here is a great thing (aside from the weather). There is so much to do at this museum and in the surrounding areas that you’re pretty much guaranteed to have an amazing work life and social life. 

Interviewer Sarah Frost spent her summer internship at the museum as a member of the Web staff, helping launch the Inka Road website and other new projects online and in social media. She is continuing to work on the museum's digital projects this fall.

Photo courtesy of Emma Strongin; used with permission. 

#MuseumMonday

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September 28, 2015

Interning at the Museum: Sarah Frost, Web

The blog series Interning at the Museum highlights the projects and accomplishments of the National Museum of the American Indian's interns. Each intern completes a 10-week internship in a department at one of the museum's three facilities—the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland; or George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. The museum’s Internship Program offers sessions in the spring, summer, and fall. The next deadline for applications—for the spring 2016 session—is November 20, 2015. These interviews feature members of this year's recently completed summer session. —Sarah Frost 

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Sarah Frost's experiences at the museum have included helping launch a major exhibition website, pulling together content for the museum's participation in the Google Cultural Institute, and interviewing her fellow interns (and herself) for the blog.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

My name is Sarah Frost, I just received my BA in anthropology from Barnard College, and I’m from Irvine, California.

You're continuing your internship into the fall. What department are you interning in, and what projects are you working on?

I’m interning in the Web Office, and I’m currently working on several projects. I am helping to form a relationship between the Google Cultural Institute and NMAI, and working with curators to create digital exhibits. I'm helping to launch a social media expansion into Snapchat by designing Geofilters for the museum. I also helped proofread and test the website for The Great Inka Road this summer, which was a massive project and an incredible accomplishment for the web team.

Why did you decide to intern at NMAI?

I decided to intern at NMAI because I wanted to combine my background in anthropology with my interest in web development and social media. I was excited to learn about how a museum manages its web presence, and to work with curators, exhibit designers, and web developers. The museum is doing great work by drawing attention to Native voices and stories.

What is your favorite aspect of your internship at NMAI?

I have really enjoyed seeing all of the pieces that come together to make an exhibition. The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire opened in June, and it was exciting to be able to see the fruit of everyone’s hard work. The website is amazing and has won several awards, and the exhibit is awesome and informative. So many people were involved, and it was great to be a part of that! 

What have you learned, and what do you hope to achieve because of this internship?

I have learned how a museum’s web presence interacts with the brick and mortar institution, and how museum content is created or translated for the web. I think that NMAI impacts many people’s lives by having a strong web presence, and I hope to continue to be part of that in the future!

How has interning helped you understand your own cultural interests?

I’ve learned a lot about the issues facing Native people today. I’ve also learned a lot about cultural appropriation. It’s made me realize how often Native images and symbols are misunderstood and misused. It’s important to me that everyone appreciate and respect Native cultures, and I feel lucky to be a part of this work.

Do you have advice for aspiring interns?

If you want to work on a specific project, or sit in on a meeting, don’t be afraid to ask! Everyone at the museum is so supportive and will do their best to make sure you have a great experience. 

#MuseumMonday 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Frost; used with permission. 

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September 21, 2015

Interning at the Museum: Anna Kelly, Interpretive Services

The blog series Interning at the Museum highlights the projects and accomplishments of the National Museum of the American Indian's interns. Each intern completes a 10-week internship in a department at one of the museum's three facilities—the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland; or George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. The museum’s Internship Program offers sessions in the spring, summer, and fall. The next deadline for applications—for the spring 2016 session—is November 20, 2015. These interviews feature members of this year's recently completed summer session. —Sarah Frost 

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Anna Kelly assisted with museum tours and a created a cultural presentation on her community, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

My name is Anna Kelly, and I am entering into my senior year at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. I am an American studies major with a concentration in Native American studies, and an education minor. I am a member of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, located in Akwesasne, New York.

What department did you intern in this summer, and what projects were you working on?

I worked in the Interpretive Services Unit, which works to promote interest in American Indian heritage, culture, and history. Cultural interpreters do this through tours, demonstrations, programs for the public, and other educational tools. We are the ones you see on the floor, interacting with the public, and hopefully teaching them something new or helping them to better understand various aspects of the museum and Native culture. This summer I worked alongside staff in positions of public interaction, such as the activities center and the Lelawi Theater. I also created a cultural presentation about my community, and researched and compiled information for one of our teaching programs that corresponds to the Nation to Nation exhibition about treaties.

Why did you decide to intern at NMAI?

This summer I wanted to intern somewhere that allowed me to explore my interest in both education and Native American history and culture. I’ve always been fascinated by museums and the way they tell powerful narratives to such a large audience, so NMAI seemed like the perfect place. The work that the Interpretive Services Unit does fit well with what I am studying in school and allowed me to experience firsthand a career that combines many of my interests. The work that everyone in this museum does is amazing!

What is your favorite aspect of your internship?

There are so many things I loved about this internship. The Interpretive Services Unit is an incredible place. I was surrounded by smart, passionate people who taught me so much about this museum and how cultural interpretation works, how we can connect themes and objects with people in a meaningful way. So I guess the people I worked with were one great aspect. Also the amazing people who work in all different departments that we met throughout the internship and the knowledge they shared has been awesome. It’s also pretty cool that I got to be around so many objects and artifacts with amazing stories and histories. 

What have you learned and what do you hope to achieve because of this internship?

I learned so much this summer, from so many people. As I said, I learned a lot about the intersection of education and interpretation and how that works in a museum setting, especially at a museum that focuses a lot on culture. I learned that there are so many ways of ending up in a place like this and that it is often unexpected. And of course I learned just how much hard work and collaboration goes into running a Smithsonian museum.

How has interning helped you understand your own cultural interests?

Being here allowed me to find ways to express my interest in not only my own culture but all Native cultures ,and the paths I can take that combine my academic and cultural interests. It also forced me to think in new ways about what culture is and how a place like a museum interprets and displays culture, especially with cultures as diverse and vibrant as Native cultures.

Do you have advice for aspiring interns?

Make the most of every opportunity (I know it sounds clichéed, but do it). Get to know the people working around you and make connections with those people. The museum world—and Indian Country—are smaller than you’d think, and people have so much knowledge they are willing to share. Get to know your fellow interns, they turn out to be awesome friends! And obviously explore the city and all it has to offer. Your time will be up quicker than you’d like it to be.

Interviewer Sarah Frost spent her summer internship at the museum as a member of the Web staff, helping launch the Inka Road website and other new projects online and in social media. She is continuing to work on the museum's digital projects this fall.

Photo courtesy of Anna Kelly; used with permission. 

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September 14, 2015

Interning at the Museum: Sara Morales, Collections Management

The blog series Interning at the Museum highlights the projects and accomplishments of the National Museum of the American Indian's interns. Each intern completes a 10-week internship in a department at one of the museum's three facilities—the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland; or George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. The museum’s Internship Program offers sessions in the spring, summer, and fall. The next deadline for applications—for the spring 2016 session—is November 20, 2015. These interviews feature members of this year's recently completed summer session. —Sarah Frost 

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Sara Morales working with a textile from the museum's collections.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

My name is Sara Elena Morales, I am going to be a senior at Cornell University, double majoring in anthropology and archaeology, with a minor in American Indian studies. I’m Hopi, and I’m from Whittier, California. 

What department did you intern in this summer, and what projects were you working on?

I interned in Collections Management. I helped with the installation of the exhibit The Great Inka Road and the de-installation of the Our Lives gallery. I have also been able to lend a hand in the packing of Our Lives objects from the museum on the National Mall so that they could be returned to museum's Cultural Resources Center (CRC) in Suitland, Maryland. 

Why did you decide to intern at NMAI?

Objects play a major role in representing cultures by reflecting what is important to specific communities and their way of life. Yet communities must also be a part of the work to accurately portray what they would like to share. The NMAI drew my interest as it integrates community collaboration in its efforts to inform and educate others. Additionally, with such a large collection of items, I was curious about the care and tracking of the objects and the way that the museum handles them, whether in exhibits or for research purposes. 

What is your favorite aspect of your internship?

I really enjoyed how hands-on the work is. During the installation of the Inka Road exhibit I saw the empty gallery transformed over the period of three weeks. It was amazing to see how many people were involved in the process of developing the exhibit and the amount of time and hard work that had gone into its production. It’s great to have the opportunity to meet people with various skills and ideas who work together towards a specific goal. 

What have you learned and what do you hope to achieve because of this internship?

I have learned the steps that are taken within the museum and at the CRC to keep objects in the collection and in the museum safe. In order to continue representing Native communities and telling their stories, these objects must maintain their integrity and be prevented from harm or damage. I hope to continue working to preserve cultural materials and make sure they are used or displayed as their creators would like them to be.

How has interning helped you understand your own cultural interests?

My internship has shown me how important it is for communities to be able to represent themselves. I’m shocked that others are not always aware of the current presence of Native peoples, yet it has also demonstrated the great role that the museum plays in educating people and opening their world view. I have become interested in the way that that information is gathered and what aspects or elements are utilized in creating an exhibit or showcasing a story.

Do you have advice for aspiring interns?

Don’t be afraid to try new things because you might enjoy them more than you thought you would! The internship provides many opportunities to speak to people of various backgrounds and skill sets and figure out what interests you the most. Also, don’t stand on the left side of the escalator.

Interviewer Sarah Frost spent her summer internship at the museum as a member of the Web staff, helping launch the Inka Road website and other new projects online and in social media. She will continue to work on the museum's digital projects this fall.

Photo courtesy of Sara Morales; used with permission. 

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September 08, 2015

Interning at the Museum: Safak Tezer, Exhibition Design

The blog series Interning at the Museum highlights the projects and accomplishments of the National Museum of the American Indian's interns. Each intern completes a 10-week internship in a department at one of the museum's three facilities—the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland; or George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. The museum’s Internship Program offers sessions in the spring, summer, and fall. The next deadline for applications—for the spring 2016 session—is November 20, 2015. These interviews feature members of this year's recently completed summer session. —Sarah Frost 

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Safak Tezer brought design skills and experience to her intern position at the museum in New York.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

My name is Safak Tezer, I just received my MA in exhibition design from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, and I’m from Istanbul, Turkey.

What department did you intern in, and what projects did you work on?

My internship was with the Exhibit Design staff at the museum's Heye Center in New York. Projects I worked on include the Infinity of Nations exhibition and the imagiNations Activity Center, which is especially for children. For the imagiNATIONS project, I created 3D designs for an activity called Many Kinds of Rope, drew illustrations for mock-ups, and did sketches for scaling purposes for Day in Your Life panels.

Why did you decide to intern at NMAI?

I wanted to experience designing exhibits within a museum setting versus a corporate trade show environment. The NMAI internship has allowed me to utilize my experience in interior architecture, along with the recent skill set I obtained in the Master of Arts program at FIT. Furthermore, learning about Native Americans has been an exciting experience for a person who is from a different part of the world. 

What is your favorite aspect of your internship?

I enjoyed being able to work on different projects in a variety of ways. This has helped me to improve my design skills. I met amazing people, learned from them, and benefitted from their experiences. In my opinion, human relationships are more valuable than anything!   

What have you learned, and what do you hope to achieve because of this internship?

Interning at NMAI has been a wonderful opportunity and has given me hands-on experience working in a museum setting. I have learned a lot about how a museum operates—the day-to-day workings and programming. My expectations have been exceeded. My NMAI experience will no doubt help me along my career path both nationally and internationally.

How has interning helped you understand your own cultural interests?

Native Americans’ philosophy of life has always been of interest to me. I come from a different background as a Turkish person. Even though globalization has lessened unique cultural differences between people, we continue to have distinct sensibilities. It has been nice to be influenced by my new surroundings, which have contributed to my philosophy of life.

Do you have advice for aspiring interns?

Don’t be afraid to try new things. It is important to remain open to new and different experiences. Everything can teach you something. You never know what you will gain through your internship. 

Interviewer Sarah Frost spent her summer internship at the museum as a member of the Web staff, helping launch the Inka Road website and other new projects online and in social media. She will continue to work on the museum's digital projects this fall.

Photo courtesy of Safak Tezer; used with permission. 

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