Canalway Partners Internship: The Expected and Unexpected

Starting an internship can be scary and exciting but internships are the best way to gain experience in museum studies. When I started interning with Canalway Partners, I did not know what to expect since they are a cultural and heritage site that focuses on the Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Area in Cuyahoga County. When most people hear about museum studies, they think that they will end up interning or working in a museum, which is not always the case. Interning at a cultural and heritage organization provided me with a lot of great experience in historical research, event planning, and website content transfers.

Getting ready for a Towpath Strolls event where people can rent bikes and explore the Towpath Trail. Photo by Sarah White

The most interesting thing that I worked on during my internship was the historical blog posts. Writing historical stories was not completely out of my wheelhouse since I am a graduate assistant for the history department and have had the opportunity to write for two Cleveland State University digital publications: Cleveland Historical and Green Book Cleveland. Similarly to writing for Cleveland Historical and Green Book Cleveland, Canalway Partners gave me more experience writing for the broader public. However, Canalway Partners’ blog posts on their website contribute to the organization’s public face whereas Greenbook Cleveland and Cleveland Historical are university based public-facing projects.

There were a few different archives and websites that I employed when completing historical research for Canalway Partners. Since the bulk of my historical blog posts were on Ohio & Erie Canal villages, I looked up the city website for each former canal village and looked to see what the city had for their history. I also used to look through Northeast Ohio newspapers that may have discussed the history of local cities and the Ohio & Erie Canal. Each blog post also needed some historical images, so I checked local archives and libraries: Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland State University’s Cleveland Memory Project, and Cleveland Public Library. Each of these institutions were very helpful and I was glad to have the opportunity to forge connections with these Cleveland libraries. I also employed Wikimedia Commons and Flickr to obtain more current photos of the cities I was researching. Once I completed researching and finding images, the blog posts had to be reviewed, edited, and then published on the Ohio & Erie Canal Coalition website.

The most intriguing historical blog post I worked on was How the Ohio & Erie Canal Shaped Cleveland’s Ohio City Neighborhood. When writing this blog post I learned about the German and Irish immigrants that dug the Ohio & Erie Canal. I also was not aware of the Bridge War between commercial rivals Cleveland and Ohio City, which was a fascinating one-day war in 1836 fought on the bridge connecting the two cities. Other cities that I highlighted were Canal Fulton, Peninsula, Magnolia, Bolivar, and Tremont. Writing these community blog posts allowed me to learn more about communities in Northeast Ohio. I also wrote a blog post titled Remembering the Ohio & Erie Canal as a Commercial Waterway: How the 1913 Flood Retired the Canal. This was an enjoyable story to research since the flood is what brought a part of my family to Ohio and because I got to write this story from an interesting angle. It was fascinating to keep the canal at the heart of the 1913 Flood story and to discuss the events leading up to and after the disastrous flood. Although blog posts were a large part of my internship, there were other responsibilities I had over the course of the internship.

One unexpected duty I had was to help with various events. It never occurred to me that there would be events I would get to help plan and organize while interning but it was a lot of fun. I helped with the Towpath Trilogy Marathon. It was my responsibility to ensure that runners picked up their awards and picked up their trilogy sweatshirts if they ran in all three of Canalway Partners’ running events. I had never even attended a marathon not to mention help organize one, so it was a pleasure to assist with this event. Another event I helped with was the Canal Basin Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. I got to network with people involved with city planning and historical preservation. I even briefly got to see Mayor Bibb! Moreover, I assisted with one of the Towpath Strolls events. For that event, there were bikes available to the public to rent and explore the Towpath Trail. I signed people in who attended the event and gave them information about the Towpath Trail. I had a great time helping organize a few events when I was with Canalway Partners.

Runners ready to start the Towpath Trilogy Marathon. Photo by Sarah White

Another unexpected aspect of my internship was to assist with the content transfer for Canalway Partners’ new website. For the content transfer, I looked at a couple of events that were on the old website and trimmed them down to the most necessary information. I then copied the new information on events to the new website. Knowing how to update websites is a great skill for any aspiring archivist or librarian to learn.

It can be challenging to juggle your internship with your classes or your job. I was fortunate enough to not be taking any additional courses when completing an internship so that I could focus solely on doing a nice job at my internship. I did however work as a graduate assistant for the history department while I was completing my internship. Overcoming procrastination and staying internally motivated is very important. I had to employ time management skills to ensure that I kept up with the obligations for my internship and job.

Listening and incorporating oral and written feedback is a skill that everyone needs to learn to improve their writing skills. I wrote a series of blog posts while completing my internship that I got constructive oral and written feedback on that made me a better writer. Having someone look over your work can be difficult, but it is important to keep in mind that the editor wants to see a written product that best depicts what their organization is and why their organization is important. It can be difficult to learn how to write for a public forum that keeps in mind the ideals of an organization.

Overall, this internship has prepared me for various tasks that I may have to complete as a librarian or archivist in the future. I can effectively write about historical events, people, or places. I can also plan events for a library or museum and update a website. I also further sharpened my time management skills and my ability to effectively integrate feedback into my writing. Overall, I had a great experience interning for Canalway Partners and I would recommend that any museum studies student branch out and intern for a cultural heritage organization.

Biking along the Towpath Trail during one of the Towpath Strolls events. Photo by Sarah White