Being an intern isn’t something that I’m new at. But being an intern at one of the largest museums in the country is. I’m moving up in the intern food chain! Fresh in the field, but also freshly prepared.
As a graduate student at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, I did my best over this past year to prepare myself to enter the field. This summer I will be splitting my time between two departments here at the Field Museum of Natural History. Most of my time will be spent in the Exhibitions Development section of the Exhibits Department, where I will be helping to pilot a new summative evaluation system for the Field’s newest permanent exhibit, Restoring Earth. Additionally, I will be working on research projects for upcoming exhibitions and helping to continue the department’s mission to create experiences that are visitor-centered.
Of course I have to balance exhibits with a little bit of education! A few days a week I will be on the floor of the Crown Family PlayLab which is run by the education department. This immersive environment is aimed at guest’s ages 2-6 and will be a great way for me to get out of my office and interact with the public. I’m going to get to play house in a pueblo, dress up like a woodland creature and lead story time! I will be working part time in both departments in June and full time in exhibits in July.
A native of the Chicago-land area, being able to come back to my hometown and work in one of the country’s most prestigious institutes is beyond exhilarating. My first day, however, I was less thrilled and more nervous about getting lost! The Field encompasses over 1 million square feet of space. There are over 500 staff members, 500 volunteers, 100 interns, 25 departments, and 50,000 members! Thankfully, I got my official name badge without incident and everyone I have encountered has been very helpful with directions. I have my very own cubicle on the fourth floor, in a loft above the other developers. It faces Stanley Field Hall and like clockwork at 9 AM the sounds of energetic students can be heard from downstairs. A high school orchestra used the hall as a concert venue a few days ago – I’m sure Sue the T-Rex appreciated the Jurassic Park tunes.
My first week was spent orienting myself to the summative evaluation project I will be working on throughout the summer. The Field’s permanent exhibit Restoring Earth opened in November and tackles the topic of nature conservation through text, graphics, interactives, and multimedia components. The new evaluation system will be a “report card” of pre-visit surveys, post-visit surveys, post-visit interviews, timing and tracking, and three month post-visit interviews for visitors to the exhibit. The hope is that one type of summative evaluation will be able to be easily manipulated to fit multiple exhibits in the future. That way, exhibits can be compared and contrasted for strengths and weaknesses across the museum.
My main task will be managing over thirty interns from throughout the museum in a testing and tracking initiative. I need to help recruit these interns, teach them about the exhibit, train them to use the touch-screen tracking technology (which is still in beta form), schedule their tracking sessions, and oversee their work. Currently I am putting together an orientation packet for interns that includes everything from a visual walk-through of the exhibit to a “what to do if my visitor does this…” guide. I definitely have my work set out for me! Look forward to more posts in the weeks to come.