My Smithsonian experience has been unbelievable; I have gained skills I thought I would never know, met people who have changed the way I see things and had the most remarkable time becoming more and more independent. I feel that this experience has been life altering to me, as of 2 years ago I would have never have had the courage to fly to America and volunteer at the Smithsonian, and now that I’ve done it, I can’t see myself working anywhere else.
In my week of volunteering at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, I assisted Jennifer Morris, the museum’s archivist. She introduced me to several aspects of the archival profession. I helped with the arrangement and description of the Dale/Patterson Family collection which documents the lives of two families who settled in the Hillsdale, Anacostia area of Washington, DC in 1892. Ms. Morris also trained me on Archivists’ Toolkit an archival data management system. I attended meetings and received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Archive Center at the National Museum of American Indian. Jennifer was hard-working and kind-hearted and I enjoyed so much helping her, she aided me to learn as much as my 16 year old brain could hold.
At the museum I finally met the lady who answered my very first email offering me a placement at the Anacostia, Shelia Parker. It was wonderful to finally put a face to the name and she turned out to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. All the people at the museum welcomed me with open arms and wide smiles, I never at any point felt unwelcome or un-wanted; I even had an ongoing comical conversation with one of the guards about my stupid need to get a cab everywhere, when he insists to use Uber.
In the museum, I saw two enormously interesting exhibits first, How the Civil War Changed Washington for which I now know about Washington’s tragic Arsenal event of 1864, where 29 women were working when a colossal fire broke out killing 3 instantly and leaving 18 to die from vicious burns. Second, I learned about Panamanian immigration to Washington, DC from the Bridging the Americas exhibition.
In England I will be starting college this September, studying History Early Modern, English Literature, Psychology and Archeology. I hope that after college, when I turn 18, I can obtain an internship at the Smithsonian giving me the opportunity to be able to come back to DC and gain even more skills and meet even more generous and wholehearted people. There are a lot of people I need to thank, such as, Shelia Parker for answering an annoying English girl’s email, Jennifer Morris who taught me so much and created the best experience I could ever imagine and my family who’s financial and loving support got me to Washington, DC to make memories and start the journey to my, hopeful, aspiring future.
All that I can do now is to work hard and never lose sight of my dream to return to Washington, DC and work at a Smithsonian Museum!
Volunteer, summer 2015