The AAA Internship Program is funded through generous contributions from our members. To make a donation and support the future of this program visit our website.
As I begin the last week at my NHHC internship, I am finishing up my research and putting the last touches on my project. I learned a great deal about submarines during World War II, their military strategy, and the conditions the sailors endured. For the most part, my work has been the same since the last post, gathering statements and photographs on the online archives about the missing submarines. However, for one of the submarines, I visited the Navy archives since there was very little online information about it. I was able to see the original transmissions, ship plans, and photographs of the submarine’s christening.
I am thankful for the intern coordinator and the rest of the members of Underwater Archaeology, as they helped me shape the project and provide feedback on tweaks to improve it. I am excited for the public to learn as much as I did about the influence submarines had on the outcome of World War II.
I can’t believe this is my last week working at the National Museum of African Art! It’s officially been five weeks since I started my summer internship, though it feels like it has only been two. When I first came into the museum, I didn’t think I would fare well. Yet here I am, begging to stay on a little longer. There are so many perks to being a staff member for the Smithsonian like getting early access to new exhibitions, receiving invitations to panel discussions, and the opportunity to volunteer at Smithsonian-sponsored summer camps. No day is ever dull and I feel so much pride walking to work. However, as much as I enjoy working for the museum, it isn’t a career I feel inclined towards. Despite that, the experiences and skills that I have learned and refined here are applicable to any field.
Two particular skills I have developed are managing multiple projects at once and conducting research using databases. As I mentioned in my last entry, I was working on two different tasks: creating a visual database of objects to display for a future exhibition and editing seven essays for an upcoming publication. Last week, my work load increased to three, with the latest taking top priority.
Smithsonian museums are a hub of information that multiple organizations, researchers, and artists can tap into if they want specific information on a particular subject. Last Monday, the curatorial interns were tasked with assisting an artist use historical fact to create a historical fiction painting. We were sent a sketch of the painting, a range of years in the 19th century that this would have occurred in, and questions to answer with our research. The painting depicted two countries with their respective diplomats meeting, so of course the first question was: were they at peace during this time? The remaining questions focused on the attire and weapons of the people being depicted.
The search got complicated quickly. First, the embassy’s historical record was missing key details about the two country’s relations between a significant span. There was a feud that occurred between the two countries where each took turns capturing each other’s ships, yet the embassy did not report that in their timeline. Secondly, artists’ depictions of women created during that time were actually interpretations of what women looked like, not what they actually looked like. Foreign artists and men did not have access to the harems within homes and seldom saw women of the household when visiting. Therefore, their only contact with women was in the public square where women would be covered completely with a veil over their face. However, a majority of these paintings depict women lounging in harems wearing revealing clothing. Because these paintings have been taken as depictions not interpretations, they give a distorted look into the history of a country. As researchers, we had to assure that these same mistakes would not be made and that the country was depicted as historically accurate as possible. By the end of my research, I knew so many specific details about this country during the 19th century that I started to spew off random facts to anyone that would listen. Most importantly, I felt that my work contributed to enhancing something tangible; something I can later see on display and point at and say “I worked on that.”
Perk of the week: Reading and holding a book from 1800s. It felt so delicate and I could hardly believe it lasted this long!