As the school year ears, our summer intern Sarah is returning her final semester. She wanted to leave us with a few words of her internship experience. Here she is, pictured center, with Hendrix Alumni Elizabeth Qualia (Guest Services Representative) and Melissa Prycer (Executive Director and President).
What do you want to do?
When I’m asked this question by a family member, professor, friend, or new acquaintance, I often struggle with how to answer. With the exception of my lofty 8 year old dreams of a career as a professional gymnast which were foiled by a growth spurt, I have never known what I wanted to be when I grew up. I know the subjects that interest me, and the skills I perform well. I have taken the personality tests and talked to career services, but I have still had difficulty figuring out what it is that I want to do. I knew that I needed some practical experience in order to make any kind of decision so in January of this year I decided that an internship was in order, and after some work and some phone calls I found myself at Dallas Heritage Village.
The purpose of my internship was to research the history of Dallas Heritage Village in preparation for the 50th anniversary in 2016. I also began a digital archive of images for the anniversary as well as completed a few smaller tasks. I like to think that I completed steps 1 and 2 of the 10 to 15 step process that is creating the 50th anniversary celebration.
I confess that I was overwhelmed when I began my research. I would not need to dive into the histories of the individual buildings in their lives before moving to Old City Park, but that only narrowed the options slightly. Where should I begin? Did I begin with the history of Old City Park? Or should I start with the story of Millermore? Of course the Millermore story would bring me to the founding of the Dallas County Historical Society, but there has been 48 years of growth and change that also needs to be honored. It was this narrative that I that captured my attention. As I read the annual reports, docent newsletters, and other documentation of years past I was amazed at all that has happened. To compile the significant events, exhibits, educational programming, and growth into a brief timeline has taken the vast majority of my time here. While often tedious this exercise has allowed me, and I hope others as well, to be able to appreciate just how much growth and change has occurred since the founding of Dallas County Heritage Society.
The lovely thing about internships is that, while completing your objectives, you are also exploring and learning about a particular field. As I prepared for this internship, it never occurred to me that by researching the history of the institution itself, I would also be answering some of my own questions about what it takes to run a museum. Through my work with the archival material I have read about the rapid growth and expansion, but also the response to tougher economic climates, natural disasters, and general changes in expectations for museums. To have office space in the Administrative Building between the former and current executive directors as they witness the changes in the Cedars has been enlightening and exciting. The line between history and the current day blurs when I realize that these same emotions and energy have guided changes throughout the history of the Village.
In addition to seeing the change in the Village over time, I have also had the opportunity to better understand myself. I’ve established my inclination towards detail-oriented work. I also know that I work well in a group setting but better in solitude, and appreciate a little guidance to ensure I’m on the right track. This summer has also confirmed my suspicions that a daily commute is necessary but not enjoyable, particularly when you are stuck in rush hour traffic remembering the 5 minute walk to class you enjoyed in May.
As my internship draws to a close, I still can’t say for certain what I want to do when I graduate, but my experience at Dallas Heritage Village has given me a lot to consider. My hope is that the work I have done will allow for the production of a wonderful 50th anniversary celebration that honors the history of the park all the way up until the present day. It has been a pleasure to have the opportunity to learn so much about this institution, and I can’t wait to see how the 50th anniversary turns out.