Reflecting on Another Summer Interning in Sheboygan…But in a Year Like None Other
by Summer Graduate Intern Becca Schnabel
I think we can all agree 2020 has been a year like none other. I graduated this Spring with my MA in Public History and a graduate certificate in Museum Studies from UW- Milwaukee. As I approached the end of my schooling, I began to realize just how difficult finding employment would be in the near future. Luckily, after having a successful first summer at SCHSM interning for Curator Tamara Lange, I was welcomed back to one of my favorite museums for a second summer position.
I Love it Here. I Keep Coming Back!
Last summer (2019) I was given the honor of designing the museum’s newest permanent exhibit, Harmonizing Heroines: Sheboygan’s Chordettes (to learn more about my experience working on the exhibit, check out my first blog https://sheboyganmuseum.org/reflections-on-a-summer-in-sheboygan-by-summer-graduate-intern-rebecca-schnabel/) This summer the work would be a bit more tedious as I assisted Tamara in preparing to move the Museum’s Collection and Donor Management System to an online platform. I spent weeks cleaning up outdated data, reviewing lists of names, memberships, donations,object data, and more making sure everything was ready to transfer smoothly to the new version. Luckily, I had the help of dedicated volunteer Shirley Leighty to assist me through some of the more time-consuming, never ending, lists of names and numbers.
As a break from staring at my various computer screens (like some pro-videogamer), I also had the chance to accompany museum staff in the field as we collected items from the Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory.
After discovering the Armory’s time capsule did not line up with the blocks of the building as we had hoped, we were forced to take fast actions to save the documents within the soaked box. My fellow intern Jarrod Showalter, and I, received hands-on experience applying quick conservation efforts in the field to save an object from potential destruction. Perhaps my favorite memory of this summer will be Tamara asking City Hall staff for a spatula. That’s right, a spatula. This everyday tool was essential for her to begin carefully prying soaked newspaper pages apart with minimal tearing. Not only did she allow Jarrod and I to actively participate with this delicate conservation procedure, Tamara set a great example for us emerging professionals, remaining calm despite lacking access to specialized tools.
It ‘Wads’ Up Over Time
As always at SCHSM we make the most of every situation. The COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted the original exhibit plan for the year but we improvised as needed, creating the museum’s first “working” exhibit, essentially putting us on exhibit as museum professionals. Some of you may have attended our Accessioning the Armory days where we invited visitors to watch us first hand as we worked on cleaning, inventorying, taking pictures of, and ultimately accessioning the new Armory collection. Who knew scraping 40 years of chewing gum off benches could be so much fun?!? That, and vacuuming up sandstorms of concrete dust! In reality it honestly was fun. I love working with objects and learning new strategies to better preserve them for the future.
Votes for Women!
Along with working on the Armory exhibit we assisted in curating a traveling poster exhibit from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery titled, Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence. Carefully spraying adhesive, we mounted the posters first on stiff boards and then onto the gallery walls. Not only did we get to share the history of the 19th Amendment, we also participated in the celebration on August 26th, ringing bells and assisting in presentations on women suffrage in Sheboygan County.
Physically Apart but Socially Connected
As well as preparing safe in person experiences over this summer, I also had the chance to facilitate participatory online material: Collection Spotlight social media posts, and Tasty Tuesday-Reminiscing with Sheboygan Recipes and LIVE! From the Museum videos. I have witnessed the importance of remaining socially connected even while physically apart. Working on social media projects such as these provide an example of how we can continue to immerse the public in the museum experiences they love despite other limitations. All of my various experiences at SCHSM over the last two years have been fundamental in shaping me as a passionate and educated museum professional. Thank you everyone at SCHSM for always challenging me and being patient as I continue my professional development.
P.S. I am happy to say this should not be the last you hear of me! Although my internship has concluded I am continuing to volunteer weekly at the museum helping with collection and exhibit work as need be! Hope to see you all soon.