On October 3, 2016, I started my first internship and paid work in the field since graduating from my MA. Now, I’ve been applying for jobs all over the country all summer, while also working overnights in a grocery store to make ends meet. This meant waking myself up part way through my weird daytime sleep so that I could brush my hair, have a cup of tea, and do skype interviews without looking like I had just been asleep, and then going straight back to bed after so that I could go to work that night. Not exactly the most fun time I’ve ever had.
My routine with nightshifts was that, whenever I had more than one night off in a row, I would keep myself up after my last shift and switch myself around again so that I could sleep at night like a normal person, spend time with my partner, and see things like the sun. So when I got the call finding out that I got this internship, I was running on about 30 hours of no sleep, and when the number came up on my phone, I prepared myself for rejection, just as I had for every other job I interviewed for and didn’t get. When I answered the phone, and the curator offered me the job, I was so stunned and overtired that my response was, “ummmm…..yeah?”
Adding to the sleep deprivation, I now felt overwhelmed with adrenaline. Not only had I got the job, but the position, a curatorial internship (basically my dream job), was in Fort St John, B.C. at the Fort St John North Peace Museum, and I had a week to move there and start the position. Good. Not a problem. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE.
And everything has been fine. A month in, I’m reasonably settled in to my rented room, and I’ve been gradually expanding my roadmap with little weekend errands. Aside from the fact that I arrived at the beginning of October to snow, which has not left, I’ve been really enjoying myself here. The town has everything I need, everyone I’ve met is lovely, and the landscape is just beautiful. Definitely a change of scenery (pun intended) for this East Coast native.
This internship has been everything I could have hoped for so far. It is not an exaggeration to say that I learn a new skill everyday. My typical day begins with working with a collection of negatives. These negatives were taken by Rudy Schubert, who was a Canadian, and the official photographer for the U.S. Army during the construction of the Alaska Highway. The first two weeks of my internship I spent organizing these negatives, and trying to sort them into their appropriate groups. Now, I am almost finished scanning them all onto the computer. After this, I will be accessioning them, and putting them all up on the database. So far, I’ve scanned over 500. All I can say is thank goodness I can listen to music while I work.
The other part of my day is spent doing research on the construction of the Alaska Highway. The longterm deliverable of this internship is that I will be designing an exhibit based on Rudy Schubert’s photographs, to compliment the rest of our exhibit space about the Alaska Highway. So far, I’ve been mostly trying to catch myself up on the basics -being an Easterner, and never having studied history from this side of the country, I didn’t know a thing about the Alaska Highway until now, so I still have a lot to learn.
One hour out of my day is spent doing miscellaneous things around the museum with Heather, the curator. On one day, I helped her and Marjo, our volunteer textile expert, assemble some new archival-grade mannequins. This was hilariously good fun. Marjo had an outfit already in mind for the lady, and when she was dressed, Marjo commented, “Doesn’t she look like a liberated woman of the 20s?” I love thinking this every time I walk past our 20s lady now; it makes me smile thinking that we made her a liberated woman, ahead of her time.
I have also been attended all of the different committee meetings that the museum has. In preparation for the Acquisition Committee Meeting, I learned how to properly write up the forms for items we wanted to deaccession, and then got the opportunity to present each item up for deaccession, and explain the reasons that we wanted to deaccession it. Then, after the committee voted on each item, I learned how to properly photograph and deaccession each item in the database.
I also got to go on a little daytrip to Dawson Creek, for a meeting with Destination B.C. They have been holding a series of workshops with various groups involved in the tourism industry in Northern B.C. to figure out why people visit Northern B.C., and what sort of things need to be done to help increase tourism to this area. This was a fascinating workshop because it wasn’t just representatives from museum and heritage groups, but from all sectors of tourism, so for me it was a wonderful opportunity to learn about these other draws, and how we can all work in partnership to increase tourism in the region, and in doing so allow these communities to thrive. Having only really discussed tourism as a factor at the academic level before this, being able to actually participate and see how to have these conversations was extremely valuable.
This month I also got to go out to an area just outside of Fort St John called Bear Flats, for the Northern Trails Society monthly meeting. This society consists of heritage bodies, such as the museum where I work, in the North Peace region. Currently they are planning a circle tour between all of the different museums and heritage sites for 2017, so that was a large part of the discussion that day. I got to see first hand the discussion and decision-making of every aspect of putting together a project of that scale; we took an anonymous vote on which company to use for the design of the promotional material, for example.
The site where we held this meeting belongs to Ken and Arlene Boon, who volunteer with the Fort St John North Peace Museum, and have a collection of buildings and artifacts of their own on the property, which has been in their family for three generations. After the meeting, Ken gave us all a tour of the property, and I can safely say I have never seen landscape quite like this. Seriously. Look at it.
I think the biggest highlight of that day were the doggy friends I made. Well, friend. This is Shiloh and Buster. Buster wanted to be my friend and let me pet him to my hearts content. Shiloh did not, so I appreciated his dogginess from afar.
Just when we were about to leave, we also got to see a heard of elk running down the mountain at top speed! Something must have spooked them or chased them, because they were gunning it. I’ve never seen elk in the wild, so this was really exciting. Unfortunately I didn’t get to take any pictures because they were too far away. From where we were they were just little specs going down the side of the mountain. I did, however, get to see three young deer on the side of the highway, munching away and not caring about the 18 wheeler trucks whipping past them, as we drove back to the museum at the end of the meeting.
I am learning so much here, and I don’t want to miss keeping an account of all of the skills I’m getting, so I’m going to try and post fairly regularly over the next six months that I am here. I can’t think of a better job to get to start my career, and I can’t wait to see what adventures the rest of my time here will bring.