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So I mistakenly thought last week was my final week at the National Museum of African Art, however, my stay at NMAfA was extended to Tuesday! This extension allowed me to say my proper goodbyes and get all of the use out of my Smithsonian staff badge before its expiration. Therefore, this post is mostly about the food and activities I did before leaving NMAfA. Warning: don’t read this post if you’re hungry.
On August 10th, the Smithsonian Institution celebrated its 171st birthday and I celebrated my 22nd. Although there’s a huge age gap between the two of us, knowing that we share the same “establishment” date has made me feel closer to it.
On the same day, the interns were treated to a special lunch at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The food at Sweet Home Café is definitely something to write home about! They have both traditional and contemporary food from African American culture. With both of my parents being from the south, I desperately wanted to try their take on food from either the Creole Coast or Agricultural South. Unfortunately, so did everyone else, so I opted for a meal from the Western Range: BBQ beef brisket on a sweet potato bun with chutney made of charred peaches and jalapenos. With our staff passes we were able to bypass the line getting into the museum and get a discount on food. After lunch, we were given the option to return to work or tour the museum. I wanted to jump back in line for seconds!
That evening, I attended the second to last summer event at the Hishhorn Museum. Guests were invited to lounge around in the sculpture garden, purchase adult beverages, and listen to live music. These events are free to public, but without my weekly email from the SI newsletter, this event would have gone unnoticed. I have yet to go inside the Hishhorn, but I’m hoping to attend their last summer event where guests can tour the new “AI WEIWEI” exhibit after hours.
Inspired by the success of Sweet Home Café, I visited another renowned Smithsonian café on Monday, the Mitsitam at the National Museum of the American Indian. When I was kid, I loved to order sweet fry bread and jelly from a local restaurant. The Mitsitam offered a savory version of this fry bread and I couldn’t resist. It featured a Great Plains-styled taco with bison chili, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and green chilies on top of the fry bread. The portion was so big; I had to take a longer lunch.
Finally, on my last day, I went upstairs to the NMAfA museum store. The store features items crafted by African artisans (a portion of the sale is given to them), cookbooks, clothing, dishware, toys, and books on African pride. My favorite items are the decorative candles and saucers that feature two women in various colorful outfits. I had already purchased the saucers, so I chose a couple of candles to complete my collection. As I was checking out, the security guard, Corporal Chris, announced to the entire store that it was my last day. Although a little embarrassed, I was happy to have made friends and connections at the museum.
I know I will back to visit NMAfA, so it isn’t a goodbye, but a see-you-later. Honestly, even though I am physically away from NMAfA, my experiences and everything I learned will always stick with me. I walked past an Ethiopian store in Alexandria over the weekend and was able to identify the different religious objects for sale and their uses. This internship was more than just a placement at a museum. It was a life-changing experience. I hope more interns can encounter this transformation. It’s truly unbelievable.
This week I wrapped up my internship at NHHC-UAB. I learned so many invaluable skills during my short time there. Not only did I get to see the daily workings of what a future in underwater archaeology is like, but I also was able to interact with professionals that have experience in the field. My experience with the other interns was also great. It was eye opening to see the different paths they are on and their background coming into the program. I enjoyed seeing the projects they worked on take shape, from policy research to photogrammetry reconstruction. Although I did not get a chance to work on those projects due to time restrictions, I still saw what is available in the future as I continue my career.
Apart from my large project, I worked on a couple of smaller tasks including research of diving equipment for the branch to use in their site surveys and going through documents in the Navy archives with another intern. I finished the World War II submarines project using ArcGIS and Esri story map. I am glad I went through the process of extensive research for this project. I learned a great deal about American submarines, their military strategy, and the conditions the sailors endured. I also learned the ins and outs of their databases, problem solving, and troubleshooting the new software I used. I valued the fact that I had freedom to work on projects with my own design but everyone was always there to answer any questions, provide guidance, or give feedback. At the end of the project, I completed a report detailing my design, methodology, and reasons for my decisions.
I am incredibly satisfied with my project knowing that it is going to educate the public and will go along with other publications UAB will be releasing. To me, it is reflective of the tools that can result from collaboration between different branches and resources of NHHC.