The Cleveland State University Department of History has offered internships for credit for many years. Since I became the internship coordinator in 2003, more than five dozen students have completed internships. Initially the majority were undergraduate History majors, but the inception of the Museum Studies specialization in our Master of Arts in History in 2007 reoriented the focus of the program toward graduate students, although undergraduates and non-Museum Studies graduate students continue to pursue internships.
Most of our students have taken advantage of the great array of museums, historical societies, heritage sites, and other public history organizations in Northeast Ohio, among them the Cleveland History Center (Western Reserve Historical Society), Cleveland Museum of Art, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, Intermuseum Conservation Association, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Shaker History Museum, International Women’s Air & Space Museum, Summit County Historical Society, and Akron Art Museum. Occasionally students have completed internships farther afield. In recent years these have included the Athens County Historical Society in Athens, Ohio, and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
One part of my assessment of interns has always been a reflection essay. Students have found it a rewarding experience to reflect on their experience as interns: the projects they undertook, collections or exhibitions in/on which they worked, challenges faced and solutions found, skills they learned or polished, meetings and events they attended, and what their experience has shown them about where they are and where they hope to go next. For the past fourteen years I read these essays with great interest, along with supporting documentation, and then filed them away. At best they offer a useful reference to me, but an opportunity was also missed to give interns a way to share their experience more widely.
Our interns have stories to tell, but apart from occasional media coverage of our interns’ work, such as Marilyn Miller’s guest-curated “Shaker Cures: Natural Medicine in the Valley of God’s Pleasure” exhibit at Shaker History Museum in 2014, their work is often invisible. Accordingly, I am adopting a new means of submitting reflection essays: via blog post. Of course, that requires an added dimension, crafting a piece aimed at a public audience rather than intended only for a professor. Watch for a growing chronicle of our interns’ exciting and important work in the weeks, months, and years to come. I also hope to engage past interns in blogging about their internship experiences in light of their subsequent career development.