From day one of the program, my fellow MAPHers and I were told about the coveted MAPH Internships and what great opportunities they offered upon graduation; just nine months away! I was eager to apply to these internships (indeed I planned on applying to ALL of them; I had jobs on my mind from the beginning!) yet as coursework began I found myself absolutely absorbed in my fascinating classes and my priorities changed.
Fast forward to spring quarter when in April I began to realize I had no claim to my thesis and had to rewrite the entire paper from scratch. My new thesis final draft was due in a month and so were the MAPH Internship applications that I had been so eager to complete back in fall quarter. I was absolutely overwhelmed and the last thing I wanted to do was write multiple cover letters. With the help of the MAPH mentors, I applied to one MAPH internship; the Curatorial Internship at the Chicago History Museum…and I got it!
Looking back and remembering how my stress almost stopped me from applying at all, I cannot emphasize how glad I am that I overcame my thoughts of “It’s so competitive, why bother?” or “I should spend this time working on my thesis!” I absolutely loved my time at the Chicago History Museum and am so grateful to have had this opportunity.
As one of two Curatorial Interns, my supervisor put us to work immediately. Our main project was brainstorming ideas and researching for three future exhibitions. Our research was mostly internet-based yet we often worked with the museum Research Center to look through the physical collections. My fellow intern and I would then compile our ideas and findings into spreadsheets which were shared with our supervisor and other curators. This research even contributed to the awarding of a grant for the museum!
In addition, I conducted research for the museum’s archivist, which allowed me to do work at other Chicago institutions like the Art Institute and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Daley Library. I also helped the Costume Collections Manager take inventory of the collections and move some pieces to new storage spaces.
In completing this work, I felt I was truly a member of the Chicago History Museum staff. My opinion was valued and I was treated with great respect. Not only did I feel a great sense of pride but I was also incredibly thankful for my time in the MAPH program. I know that my ability to voice my ideas and research skills were a direct result from my classes and thesis work. In fact, I appreciated that stressful month of April as it taught me that research is not always straightforward; at the museum, I had to think about my projects from different perspectives. MAPHers are self-reliant, and the ability to work independently and without supervision was absolutely necessary for this position. The trust our supervisor had in us enhanced my confidence in my work and I feel now that I am qualified to pursue a career in a museum.
My little bit of wisdom for MAPHers is that plans and aspirations change over the course of the year, at least mine certainly did. Let them! Immerse yourself in your classes and think about what you want your thesis to explore in the fall. Listen to your preceptors and read for your thesis over winter break. When it comes time for the MAPH Internship applications in spring, talk to your amazing mentors and make time to complete them. Despite feeling like I had no time to spare, I made sure I wrote my best cover letter for the Chicago History Museum Internship. I consider myself lucky to have had such
an incredible experience at the museum and I encourage anyone with a passion for research and history to apply!
P.S. Chicago has a fascinating history and the museum’s collection is incredible. If you want to do cool stuff like hold Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, apply to this internship.
I would love to answer any questions about this internship or the MAPH year in general so please ask!