Interning with the Smithsonian: Update 4

Well, this post has taken a surprising turn of events compared to my last several posts. There are some highlights and some lowlights.

Since the last update, I participated in a presentation with my fellow interns as part of the fall final intern presentations held by NMAI at the end of every intern cycle. I’ve gathered that most interns are usually around for approximately 10 weeks with some staying on longer depending on the work they are doing or any extensions made to their internship contracts. So my presence for 6 months, though not out of the ordinary, will give me more opportunities than normal to build my skills while working for the museum.

These presentations allocated 5 minutes for each intern to present and, of course, I spent my time talking about the groundwork I’ve accomplished so far with the NMAI Wikipedia edit-a-thon. I also mentioned my proposal for my ArcGIS StoryMap and then fielded some questions from the audience of about 35 people (not counting the interns or our internship coordinators). One of the biggest takeaways I had from this wasn’t actually based around my work, but the work of my fellow interns (who I have neglected to speak about much in my previous blog posts). Seeing all the work that they’re doing–from marketing to job safety to cultural interpretation–has really highlighted for me the opportunities that exist at institutions like NMAI and how there will always be areas where we can improve to create better relationships between the public and places of learning and education like NMAI.

Beyond this, I’ve been spending significant time implementing our communications plan for the edit-a-thon. I contacted one of the academic programs representing students we plan to invite to the edit-a-thon (the Native Pathways Program at The Evergreen State College) and I was able to get in touch with two experienced Wikipedians who shared their interest in joining us for this event. In addition to this, I also got the event homepage published on Wikipedia so participants can begin to see the event coming together. But this is where the turn of events happens…

I received an email from my supervisor asking me to put a pause on this project. It appears that another department somewhere in the Smithsonian is preparing a Wikipedia edit-a-thon of their own and wants to partner with another organization and potentially become involved with the groundwork we’ve already been laying. However, this is all the information we have. We do not know how this will transform our work or how to proceed. So as of the last week, the edit-a-thon hasn’t made much progress. Personally, I have conflicted feelings over this, but hiccups with projects at organizations this big aren’t wholly uncommon (speaking from my current experience working at my alma mater!).

For now, Dr. Montiel has asked me to focus on my ArcGIS StoryMaps idea. While we haven’t received formal approval for the project since submitting the revised proposal, we are aware that there is support for it and that there is a good possibility it will be approved in the coming weeks. In light of this, I was advised to begin some prep work so that way we can hit the ground running with this project for when we (hopefully) receive full approval. And as we come to an end of this semester at George Mason, I plan to continue with this work over the winter break. I expect my next update will largely consist of my new StoryMaps project. Until next time!

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