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USHMM Internship- Informational Interview

I interviewed Ramee, Exhibition Coordinator at USHMM, who is also my supervisor while I am on-site at the Portals building on Mondays. I chose to interview Ramee because she is not only accessible but is also willing to share wise advice for someone aspiring to obtain a career in the public history field. I am interested in behind the scenes work and, more specifically, I tend to lean towards tasks in collections or exhibitions. I also realize that in various institutions, depending on size and structure, these positions could overlap more than what I see at USHMM and I may need to be prepared to wear multiple “hats”.

Regardless, the advice and information I received through interviewing Ramee gave me much to think about, yet, also affirmed that I have a strong interest in a position like exhibition coordinator. The interview went well and I am still reflecting on the things we talked about and what I desire for my future career.

I learned several things about Ramee as a person, as well as the job she fulfills, through our conversation. Ramee’s public history career has always led her to serve in similar positions and job descriptions as exhibition coordinator. Ramee has served at various institutions with differing content which were not always in her subject area of interest. She decided, however, that she could forgo a position based on content, so long as she held the same position as exhibition coordinator. Also, (although I already knew this through observation) Ramee is a people person. She stated that for this particular job, this characteristic was necessary. Ramee assured me that her position as USHMM’s exhibition coordinator is an example of luck and timing because this was the first coordinator position she found in her content area of interest. Her undergraduate studies seemed to focus on World War II and the Holocaust.

Finally, I learned where her position is located in context to the greater governance structure at USHMM. While she answers to people above her, like the curator or director of exhibitions, she has to be both assertive and organized in her communications with these people. Often times they are involved in script writing or research and Ramee, as exhibition coordinator, must keep them informed and remind them of their roles and deadlines. As the job title infers, Ramee spends much of her time coordinating rotations, changes, and creations of special exhibitions as well as the permanent exhibit at USHMM. On any given day, she will spend much of her time on the database using File Maker Pro. There are many informal meetings that take place with members of the exhibition team regarding planning and communication. Less often, formal meetings are held either outside of the portals building or in the physical space of the exhibitions at USHMM.

After a few weeks of seeing just a glimpse of what Ramee does and through speaking with her in this interview, I believe that I would be fulfilled and interested in serving as an exhibition coordinator. I think the characteristics Ramee outlined as necessary for the position are characteristics which I have. I am an organized person who is detailed oriented and conscious of deadlines. I would like the type of variety that can be found in this position, in that, I could be working in various capacities behind the scenes with the database, artifacts, and the design process. There would be something gratifying and exciting to be apart of the planning process and to see something come to fruition in the physical space at USHMM. I am working on being more assertive and although that would be a growing edge and challenge for me, it is something I can certainly overcome in a position like exhibition coordinator.

With all of that in mind, however, I am in the midst of really assessing my priorities for my career. Ramee pointed out and suggested that someone aspiring to enter the public history field should determine what is more important- content or position? I have to understand that Ramee is an exception and I might not be able to have both. I used to believe that I could fulfill any position or job description so long as it was in the area of Holocaust/genocide studies. Now, I am not so sure. After working with different institutions like Arlington House, I am now challenging my previous assertion. The wayside project at Arlington House was not in my subject area of interest, but I grew to love what I was writing about because I was excited about creating a wayside. This presents a challenge to my thinking yet opens more doors for me in the public history field.

I wish I could tell you what my decision is or where my priorities rank, but I cannot tell you at this moment. I need to think about it some more and experience the rest of this internship as well as take part in more internships or projects with differing institutions. While I am not sure which one takes precedent at the moment- content or position- I am sure that I would be interested in exhibition coordinator and that I could consider positions outside of my area of interest. At least that is a start.

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