Reflecting on a Pandemic Summer in Sheboygan
by Summer Graduate Intern Jarrod Showalter
This summer, I interned with the Sheboygan County Historical Society and Museum. I was hired to assist Tamara Lange, the Museum’s Curator of Collections and Exhibits. Working at a place like this means helping with all parts of the Museum’s operations, and in doing so I learned about all facets of museum life. This made my summer in Sheboygan quite memorable, and valuable, for an emerging museum professional. Despite the upheaval that the pandemic brought to my and the Museum’s summer, I greatly enjoyed my time there and looked forward to my drive from Milwaukee to Sheboygan each morning.
Let’s Hit the Links
One of my main responsibilities this summer was working with newly donated items from Sheboygan native golfer Martha Nause. Nause donated a considerable amount of golf equipment and apparel, plus several personal items from her off-field life, in addition to archival material. After deciding which objects to keep and how to group them, I began the process of cataloging the newly accessioned items. This involved measuring, describing, photographing, condition reporting, and researching each item. For some items, this took only an hour or two, but for others, it took a large part of the day.
For many objects I corresponded with Nause herself to get a better understanding of the items. I am not a golf expert, and I did a lot of learning about the game. Nause’s donation had a lot of background stories and details that were fascinating and added to the meaning of the collection. We considered taking the clubs out to the roof to test out their technical condition, but ultimately decided against it . The process ended with numbering, packing, and storing the objects. Numbering took a variety of methods, including sewing, which I needed a refresher and lots of patience from Tamara.
Accessioning the Armory: Preserving Yesterday for Tomorrow
The preservation efforts for the Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory were especially memorable. Among the pieces of the Armory the Museum took for preservation included a section of the basketball floor, stage, bleacher seats, entrance doors, ticket booth, and the cornerstone with a time capsule inside. Transporting, preserving, and accessioning these objects was quite the experience, as they were often large and heavy. Finding creative ways to be secure and efficient in moving the objects was quite fun. Tamara and my fellow intern and friend Becca also held several public events showcasing how we “Accessioned the Armory,” where we cleaned the surfaces of objects. This included scraping gum off benches!
Retrieving the time capsule was easily the most memorable part of the armory experience. Becca, Tamara, Chloe, Travis, and other personnel from the City Planning and Development office went into emergency response mode to preserve the documents, which were wet and had cement on them. We carefully took off wet cement, separated the documents, and preserved what could be preserved. Overall, the staff did an excellent job and it was quite the enjoyable, hands-on learning experience.
It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere…
Another very memorable day was the day Becca and I worked together to create a Reminiscing with Sheboygan Recipes video for Tasty Tuesday online programming. We made Brandy Old Fashioneds. We researched, wrote, and filmed ourselves making the Wisconsin specialty! We also got to drink our creations, which made the day much more enjoyable. The video was fun, and so were the other Tasty Tuesdays, which were very tasty.
Interning in a Pandemic
The COVID-19 Pandemic certainly made things more interesting. I was worried I would have to work remotely, doing only a fraction of what we expected my task to be. Fortunately, the Museum staff came up with stringent and safe guidelines for working in person, allowing me to complete nearly all of my expected tasks. I quickly grew comfortable wearing a mask, and my desk was moved out into the exhibit area, far away from Becca’s desk. One of my first tasks was outfitting the Museum for the new COVID reality, installing hand sanitizer stations, taping arrows on the floor, and installing signage around the museum campus.
A Valuable and Fantastic Experience
As a public historian, with an emphasis in museum studies, this was the perfect internship for me. I have major interests in collections work, historical writing, preservation, and more; this internship aligned perfectly with those interests. Tamara was my boss but also my mentor, and I learned hands-on from her the myriad processes of collections and exhibits work. Like Tamara, the rest of the Museum staff, assisted in idea formation, editing, sounding boards, and more. I’ve worked in several museum environments, and this was easily the most helpful and collaborative one I’ve been a part of.
I learned a lot during my time in Sheboygan. I became much more familiar with Past Perfect, the museum software, Publisher, writing for various public audiences, working with and preserving objects, collaborating with researchers and other members of the public, task prioritization and teamwork, exhibit repair, and more. I am truly grateful for the Museum and its staff for giving me a fantastic experience when it was so easy to not do so. You’ve earned a new lifelong supporter!