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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.

summer at the smithsonian

We’ve invited our recent Affiliate interns and visiting professionals to blog about their experiences in our Summer at the Smithsonian series beginning in August.  Shawn Pirelli, Smithsonian Affiliations intern partner from Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA) will kick us off, so check back soon! Here’s a taste of what each thought of their time at the Smithsonian: 

Affiliate Visiting Professionals 

Eric Stanley (left) spent two weeks at the National Museum of American History researching the process of developing and designing history exhibitions.

“It was my great pleasure to be introduced to many, many facets of creating exhibitions at NMAH. I met over thirty people and was able to learn something from each of them. The time I spent with them, each one knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and warmly receptive of my presence, was a tremendous benefit to me and my institution,” said Eric Stanley, Sonoma County Museum (Santa Rosa, CA). 

Chena Popper spent three weeks at the National Museum of Natural History with registrars and collections care experts.

“It was a great learning experience to be able to see the loan process from start to finish, from loan forms to insurance and shipping, arrangements to condition reporting. Then on the SDNHM side, I was able to assist with the receiving, condition reporting and installation of the pieces,” said Chena Popper, San Diego Natural History Museum (San Diego, CA). 

Lisa Falk (left) benefited from a 4-week, pan-institutional project focused on technology and Web 2.0 initiatives at the Smithsonian.

“My SI colleagues were inviting, open, and encouraging. Their work is inspiring and has given me many ideas and broadened my understanding of the possibilities and some of the difficulties in creating digital and face-to-face museum interactions. Back home, I look forward to sharing what I learned with my ASM colleagues and trying out some of the Smithsonian approaches,” said Lisa Falk, Arizona State Museum (Tucson, AZ).

Affiliations Intern Partners

Annette Shumway at the National Postal Museum working to digitize the Postmaster General Collection.

“Taking part in both of these projects has helped me understand the logistics behind coordinating loans and standards involved in collections’ imaging projects. I feel that much of the experience that I gained through this period will aid in the second portion of my internship which will involve initiating a collections digitization program,” said Annette Shumway, Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partner at the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University (Miami, FL). 

Shawn Pirelli is wrapping up 10 weeks at the Smithsonian researching Thanksgiving traditions for a future exhibition.

“I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most revered curators and archivists in the world.  The Smithsonian is truly an untapped gold mine in historical records. With the help of the staff, I was able to uncover some of the most truly magnificent historical records that, during their time, helped shape and change the United States,” said Shawn Pirelli, Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partner at Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA). 

David Kerr alternates his internship between the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian Affiliations

“My Smithsonian Affiliations internship has been incredibly advantageous. From handling and transcribing Teddy Roosevelt  letters to helping do research for an upcoming work on the Civil War to meeting with curators to discuss current exhibits and collections, my time has been very well spent, and my future as an academic or as a future employee can only benefit,” said David Kerr, Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partner at the Frazier International History Museum (Louisville, KY). 

Smithsonian Institution Intern  

Juliana Walker (right) tests an interactive game at the National Zoo with Affiliate researcher, Lisa Falk.

“Under the direction of Harold Closter I was able to learn about the enormous positive impact the Smithsonian Affiliations Office has across the country. By researching museums in the states where Affiliates are not present, I hope my research may help extend the Affiliate network across even more,” said Juliana Walker, Junior at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Don’t forget to visit our blog in August for stories from each of our interns and visiting professionals! Read first-hand how professional development opportunities at Smithsonian Affiliations can benefit your museum.  And keep checking back for application deadlines for 2011.

grab your compass

historyexplorer.americanhistory.si.edu


Affiliates Plimoth Plantation and the Senator John Heinz History Center extend their reach through Smithsonian’s History Explorer and Thinkfinity!

Smithsonian’s History Explorer is a gateway to innovative, standards-based online resources for teaching and learning American history.  History Explorer is designed and developed by the National Museum of American History, a partner in Verizon’s Thinkfinity.org consortium of leading national education experts. The National Museum of American History is an integral part of Verizon’s Thinkfinity.org consortium. 

Teachers need only to visit Thinkfinity.org to search free educational resources from all of the partners. Thinkfinity is a free, comprehensive digital learning platform for high-quality education content, and serves as a portal for millions of American teachers, parents, and students.  The site makes it easy for educators to enhance their classroom instruction with lesson plans, interactive activities, and other online resources.

Now, the unique resources of two Smithsonian Affiliates will be added to History Explorer and will be Smithsonian recommended resources on Thinkfinity.org.  You Are the Historian, from Plimoth Plantation, investigates the first Thanksgiving and what really happened at the 1621 harvest celebration.  The Heinz History Center’s Worlds in Motion examines the complexities of interaction among eastern American Indians, colonists and Europeans from pre-contact through colonial times.

Affiliates, do you have exemplary or unique materials on American history that you would like to share?  To nominate your resource or website, or to find out more about the process, please contact your outreach manager.