Shawn Pirelli: summer at the smithsonian

We invited our recent Smithsonian Affiliate interns and visiting professionals to blog about their experiences in our Summer at the Smithsonian series. Special thanks to our intern partner, Shawn Pirelli, for kicking us off!

Affiliations Intern Partner, Shawn Pirelli, researching at the Archives Center at the American History Museum.

During my designated ten weeks as a Smithsonian Intern Partner I worked closely with the Affiliations unit to create an exhibit that my host institution would like to propose for the Smithsonian’s International Gallery. As a researcher at Plimoth Plantation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, it was fittingly appropriate that this project focused on the American holiday commonly referred to as Thanksgiving. Thus, for the duration of my time at the Smithsonian I collected materials, searched through archives, met with curators and archivists, and organized my findings. Pending approval by the Smithsonian, the exhibition would tentatively open in the fall 2012.

The prospect of creating an exhibit in the Ripley Center seemed daunting when I arrived at the Smithsonian Institution. As I became more acclimated to my new surroundings in Washington, I began to realize that the Smithsonian faculty and staff were just as excited as I was to discuss the content. With their help, I soon found a gold mine in historical records. The archives figuratively overflowed with objects and documents on so many diverse topics.

Shawn and Affiliations Outreach Manager, Jennifer Brundage, perusing the Archives at American History.

In the archives I found Thanksgiving postcards, Grand Ball invitations, sheet music and gubernatorial proclamations. Additionally, in the collections were preserved pictures of Thanksgiving pageants, dinners, parades, Presidential pardons, and light shows. Altogether I compiled a 350-page inventory list of materials, documents and images found in the archival collections. This list has helped me envision the exhibit in a three-dimensional computerized format.

In September 2010, I will return to the University of New Hampshire where I am currently a graduate student of history. While taking classes, I will be able to work with some of the most revered historians in the academic field; many have already helped me explore several diverse possibilities for this project.

Furthermore, I will also be returning to Plimoth Plantation to work more closely with its staff, curators, and administrators. At Plimoth Plantation, the project will take its shape under the supervision of Richard Pickering, Deputy Director. Under his supervision, the materials I found at the Smithsonian can be requested for loan in the International Gallery.

Smithsonian American Art Museum Graphic Arts Storage study room.

With the Smithsonian Affiliations program I will be able to see the fruits of my work at the most respected institution in the world. It is through this partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, Plimoth Plantation, and the University of New Hampshire that this project is possible. Each entity brings an unrivaled dynamic to this project. The resulting exhibit will be a reflection of all the wonderful assistance the Affiliations program offered me during my summer in Washington. 

Next in the series: Eric Stanley, Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professional from Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa, California.

August at an Affiliate near you!

It’s August! Here are a few things you can see at a Smithsonian Affiliate in your neighborhood this month:

Alabama
Let Your Motto Be Resistance, a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) exhibition, opens at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham) on August 28.

Anacostia's (then Uniontown) Birney Public School children lined up with a teacher behind the Kennebec Ice horse-drawn wagon as the ice man shows them large chunk of ice suspended by tongs. Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston, Courtesy of the Library of Congress, circa 1899

District of Columbia
The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum’s exhibition East of the River is on view at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. until January 2011.

Georgia
You can see another SITES exhibition, The Working White House: Two Centuries of Traditions and Memories, at The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History (Kennesaw) until August 29.

Iowa
The new expansion at The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (Dubuque) features artifacts from the National Museum of Natural History in its new immersive galleries.

Kentucky
Opening this month at the Headley-Whitney Museum (Lexington) is The Horse in Decorative Arts, including artifacts from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Museum of American History, on view through December 2010.

A visitor to the "Native Words, Native Warriors" exhibit at Montana Historical Society. Photo courtesy Montana Office of Governor Brian Schweitzer

Montana
Montana Historical Society (Helena)- Native Words, Native Warriors.  This exhibition organized in collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian will travel to Native American reservations across Montana through December.

Nebraska
Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography is on view until September 2010 at the Durham Museum (Omaha), organized for travel by SITES.

Ohio
The Archives of the History of American Psychology (Akron) will celebrate the opening of their new building on August 28.

Toroweap overlook in morning light. Part of the exhibition "Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography" at the Durham Museum. Photo by Jack Dykinga

Pennsylvania
The Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh) welcomes Smithsonian conservator Don Williams for their Hidden Treasures event on August 29.

Texas
Twenty black and white photographs from the National Air and Space Museum are featured in the exhibition Dreams of Flight: A Journey through Air and Space at The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future (Dallas) through October 2010.

Wyoming
Last chance to see Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Warriors: Photographs by Gertrude Käsebier at Buffalo Bill Historical Center (Cody). On view until August 8, the exhibition includes photographs from the Photographic History Collection in the National Museum of American History.

Click here to find a Smithsonian Affiliate in your neighborhood!