Posts

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.