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Apr 24 / Matthew Fredericks

SLIS Alternative Spring Break at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

By Veronica Johnson, MLIS Student

Veronica Johnson, MLIS Student

During Alternative Spring Break, which took place March 13-17, I completed a weeklong internship at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in their Archives Center in Washington, D.C.

I was assigned to the project “Organize It and Link It: Sharing Digital Content Using Archivists’ Toolkit” in which I helped to provide more access to the archive’s digital content through using the archival software Archivists’ Toolkit (AT). I was exposed to and gained hands-on experience with several new systems including AT, DAMS, MARC, and Adobe Bridge. I worked with archivists Alison Oswald and Kay Peterson, who served as my hosts/supervisors during the internship.

After learning how to use the systems from Kay, I was responsible for adding scanned images to a number of the museum’s online collections which are located on the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives website. Some of the online collections did not have images added to its online finding aids, so I used AT to find the collection, then went into Bridge to find the collection’s images in order to upload them to the collection as a slideshow. At the end of the week, I had added hundreds of images to over 30 collections.

In addition to working on the digital collections, I also got the opportunity to help set up a small exhibit for an event which took place at the museum called “Innovative Lives: A Dialogue on Healthcare Innovation. This event was a part of Women’s History Month and it highlighted female inventors in the healthcare field. The exhibit I helped Alison set up included healthcare inventions from women around the world and the exhibit was displayed during the event for people to look at.

On top of my work responsibilities, I also got the chance to tour the museum and check out some of its exhibits including the First Ladies, American Stories and The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired the National Anthem, all of which were amazing. The last day of my internship was a treat as well because I got to witness a performance by the Spelman College Glee Club at the museum.

This was definitely a life-changing experience that I will never forget and I was so fortunate to work at such a prestigious and world renowned institution as the Smithsonian. As an incoming MLIS student, I had no idea I would have an opportunity to intern at the Smithsonian, which is a place I have always aspired to work for. Adding this accomplishment to my resume will only enhance my professional opportunities as a future archivist. I look forward to using the skills I learned at the museum in the institution that I will eventually work for after graduating from Wayne State, which is just a month away. I made some great connections with staff at the Smithsonian which I plan to use while exploring the job market.