By: Jingshu Helen Yao
For July's internship check-in, I got in touch with Beatrice Hunter, who is currently working at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte, Ontario, and Sarah Cavaliere, who is interning with the Association of Nova Scotia Museums (ANSM).
1. Beatrice Hunter and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum Beatrice was surprised to find out about the location of the Mississippi River in Ontario Canada, and the museum itself is situated about 30 minutes away from Ottawa. Although Beatrice is currently working remotely as a research assistant, she will be traveling to Almonte in a few weeks to continue this internship in-person.
Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte, Ontario. Flickr The main task for Beatrice’s position is to establish a historical timeline of mills and woolen mills in the Mississippi Valley by consulting primary and secondary research documents. [rearranged] She is responsible for organizing her findings into an Excel spreadsheet and coding the data. Later on, when she is on site, she will collaborate with the volunteers at the museum to create a research binder. [reworded] What most intrigues Beatrice about her role at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum is the working class aspect of Canadian history that she gets to explore. “Since I began working in the museum profession as a volunteer, most of the history I've gotten to explore and interpret has been [that of] upper-class Canadians,” Beatrice explained. “This project dealt with working class Canadians, which I was very interested in.” She has been able to apply research skills, collaborative skills, and especially critical analysis skills to produce accurate research accessible for the public.
Artifact on Display in Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. Flickr
Beatrice found this opportunity through Symplicity, the internship recruitment platform provided by iSchool. She had applied for a dozen positions and didn’t think that the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum would consider her due to her having aspirations in a different area of the museum field than the position encompassed. However, she was thrilled to be offered this opportunity and to connect with various museum professionals during her work. Thus, she would like to suggest other emerging museum professionals approaching the internship course to be open to any opportunities, even when they aren’t aligned with your exact career goal.
“You will get to meet some really wonderful people who are very supportive and empathetic and generally really fun to talk to,” Beatrice said. “The skills you learned will be transferable.”
2. Sarah Cavaliere and the Association of Nova Scotia Museums (ANSM)
Sarah found out about the internship through the emails sent by the Careers Office at the iSchool. Cold-emailing was also a strategy that she took during the job searching process. She specifically reached out to institutions that were affiliated with the university for student internship opportunities.
Association of Nova Scotia Museums (ANSM). LAMNS Sarah described ANSM as a small organization. Therefore, her role involved many different aspects of the museum’s operation, where collections and educational programming were the main focus. “I work with the Association’s 56 member museums’ databases, and I also create educational resources based on the collections to be posted on ANSM’s collections website, novamuse.ca,” Sarah stated. “For my collections work, I have been doing a lot of data cleaning and entry. I go through each site’s database, where I merge duplicated donor records as well as ensure that data has been entered consistently. I’m also working with a subject matter expert from the community to help enrich the descriptions and object histories recorded in the museums’ object records. Most recently, I’ve started working with the collections management system’s IT person to develop new features for the database’s condition reporting function.” Sarah's work also involves the creation of diverse educational activities. “I have been selecting photographs of the museums’ objects from novamuse.ca and turning them into colouring pages to add to the website, and I have also been creating object-based lesson plans for teachers in Nova Scotia to use with their students,” she explained. “So far, I have created a math/social studies lesson about the Canadian census, a math/art project about patchwork quilts, an art project about hooked rugs, and an English Language Arts/French assignment about samplers. I’ve been having a lot of fun with them!”
Example of Sarah’s work. Screenshot courtesy of Sarah Cavaliere.
Sarah believed that the different roles she took up during the internship gave her the opportunity to learn about diverse aspects of museum professions, as well as to gain insights that will benefit her in future career.
“My position combines my two major interests – collections and educational programming – which was not something I expected to be able to find,” Sarah said. “Being able to work in both of my interest areas has helped me understand the things I like best about both.”
“Even though I haven’t been able to physically handle any collections, I’ve discovered that I enjoy data entry more than I expected to.” Elaborating on her experience with the two separate subfields, Sarah concluded the following: “My internship projects have also confirmed my ideas that my passion in the museum field lies in creating collections-based educational programming for schools.”
Similarly to Beatrice, Sarah worked from home for her internship. She had originally hoped to live in Halifax for the summer, but was forced to change her plans due to the new restrictions in May.
“As disappointing as that was, the best part of working from home is how convenient it is. Everything I need is always really close at hand and, instead of commuting, I can spend that time on other things. And, best of all, I can still play with my cat on my breaks!” Sarah said when I asked about the disadvantages and advantages of her online internship. “One of the biggest challenges of working from home, though, has been achieving a good work-life balance. It’s easy to feel like I’m constantly in intern-mode, since there isn’t much of a boundary between where I work and where I do other things. The time difference between the GTA and Halifax has also been a bit of a learning curve. Halifax is only an hour ahead of Toronto, but sometimes it takes more mental gymnastics than I expected to translate the times my co-workers mention in meetings and emails!”
Sarah’s workspace at home (feat. Leo)
Lastly, Sarah gave the following suggestions to future students: “Don’t be afraid to take chances! I almost didn’t apply to the position I’m working in now since it seemed like a big risk to do my internship somewhere I’m unfamiliar with. I am so glad that I decided to take a chance on ANSM – it has turned out to be an incredible experience!”