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USHMM Internship – Two Week Update

My internship has taken on two forms since we last met at the end of the semester. I am still serving on the front lines with Visitor Services at USHMM twice a week, while once I week I serve at USHMM’s portals building with Ramee Gentry. This is going to give me much needed experience with presenting and relating to the public while still meeting my needs in terms of behind the scenes work which is my career goal. I think this combination is going to exceed my expectations while keeping me grounded and in contact with visitors and their needs as I pursue behind the scenes work. My future curatorial and collection experiences will ultimately need to effectively relate to the public or else it is lost. Thus far, I have one week completed which was focused on orientation and I am currently in the midst of my second week on the job.

Visitor Services is its own branch within the governing structure of USHMM, answering to Director Sara Bloomfield. (Like all other divisions including Collections and so forth) Visitor Services exists to orient the public to the museum, aid in group reservations and overall experience, facilitate learning and create an environment where the USHMM mission is carried out effectively. During the time I am exclusively with Visitor Services on site at USHMM, I am and will be involved in a variety of duties, programs and projects. On any given day, I am assigned to various and frequently rotating positions within the museum. These positions include: group orientations and speeches, presenting to the general public while manning the elevators and tear pass line, and assisting at the information desk, with films, and other visitor facilities. The Visitor Services Internship Program is also introducing various programs and projects throughout our time at USHMM. The specifics will be determined within the next week or so, but I have the opportunity to participate in: docent training for an architecture presentation, Holocaust survivor facilitation and interviews, as well as projects that may entail writing for the Volunteer/Staff newsletter or assessing visitor experiences/surveys.

The second aspect of the internship is working with Ramee Gentry. I will be assisting her with the time consuming tasks which surround object rotations within the Permanent Exhibition and temporary Propaganda exhibition. I will begin this in earnest next Monday, but I am to work with the Collections Database for USHMM in order to track objects in the midst of these rotation needs. (More information and details to come—but this is so exciting!)

Finally, my goal is to take the most I possibly can out of these amazing opportunities. I still have to pinch myself when I go into work and speak to the students who are the age I was when I sat in the museum for the first time, wondering what I had to do to work there. I am absolutely humbled by the nature of the institution and from the Holocaust survivors I meet daily. The staff is overwhelmingly warm and supportive and I hope that in addition to career goals I may meet personal goals of maintaining a relationship far beyond the limits of this summer internship. (Both with the institution and with colleagues)

In terms of preparing me for my career goals, I think the combination of public work and behind the scenes work will be great for me. I remember that for our first reflection for Public History Seminar, I wrote that I wanted to challenge my comfort zone and work the front lines throughout the course of my graduate career. In this internship I cannot shy away from it even if I wanted to. I hope that this will continue to challenge me as well as increase my confidence in public speaking and relating my passion to the public. In addition to these personal growing experiences and career goals, I hope to walk away with a better understanding (yet still more questions) regarding the nature of visitors and the nature of memory.

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