Interning with the Smithsonian: Update 7

As we draw to the end of my internship with the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the culmination of my work since October 2020 is approaching. The Wikipedia edit-a-thon will be upon us on April 23 and we have been able to reach our max registrant capacity of 80(!) people. While I am not certain at this time how many are of the intended audience (Native American students and, as we expanded it since the last update, Native American educators), I am glad to see such a high turnout for the event. In the previous weeks, I advertised the event to my inner circles of Native American higher education programs, such as Northwest Indian College and the Native Pathways Program at The Evergreen State College. I am hoping that some of my associates were able to register for the event, but we shall soon know for sure.

In my previous update post, I had commented on my experiences working with another department at the Smithsonian Institute, the American Women’s History Initiative (AWHI), and the moments of friction between those participating in the organizing of the event. While I will refrain from any remarks that might seems disparaging, I think it is important to be transparent with any potential readers, a quality that often moves one to account for uncomfortable truths. After the last update post, AWHI became even more involved in the project and has, in a sense, requisitioned the project that at one time was being fully managed by myself and Dr. Montiel. Though we were never excluded from the project as it was clear that much of the groundwork was already in place, elements of my work were not exactly honored as one might hope when making their foray into such reputable institution, particularly one meant to represent the marginalized group that said intern is actually from. Once again, I choose to see this as another learning opportunity that can help one to understand the organization dynamics of such grand and complex institutions such as the Smithsonian. Through my limited time with NMAI, I have been privy to the develop and implementation of communication strategies, digital marketing, and public engage through the development of appropriate and digestible project instruction creation. And while not all of my work might have been honored, much of it has been preserved due to the efforts of Dr. Montiel, for whom I shall be ever grateful toward.

One major highlight that has come out of the last few weeks is the chance I had to be interviewed by the radio show Native American Calling, alongside Dr. Montiel! Through our communication efforts, a number of Native American media outlets caught wind of the edit-a-thon that is to be focused on Native American women and if anyone knows a thing about Indian Country, it’s that word travels fast. Thus, we were put in touch with Native American Calling and had our live session back on April 15. You can check out the recording here! Dr. Montiel and I (with a third guest) were able to highlight the need for Native American articles and editors on Wikipedia and why it is important that Natives control our own images and narratives, especially on such a public platform as Wikipedia. Common racial and gender gaps aside, the fact that Native Americans make up such a small segment of the population of the United States further compounds these existing social gaps, resulting in a lot of misinformation about Natives and a lack of agency being expressed in the articles about us. We figured that it would be a good message to put out there that whether we like it or not, people are going to be writing about Native Americans and if that is the case, we should be involved in what is being written about us.

Lastly, I’d like to elaborate on what I’ve been doing in the meantime. Since we are quickly approaching the edit-a-thon, the stream of work for this project has been up and down. While myself and some other project collaborators are continuously making minor and moderate updates for the preparation of content for the guests, a lot of work has already been accomplished. So I have recently turned my time toward experiencing the other opportunities that NMAI and the Smithsonian have to offer. From social meetups to online trainings to Zoom webinars, I’ve been able to get a broad intake of skill development, networking, and just general periods of edification. For example, I recently attended a webinar that focused on analyzing research about learning and education in formal and informal settings for several Smithsonian initiatives. I also learned about the Human Subjects Review process for the Smithsonian and the ethics involved with human participants in research projects. And I was able to network with my fellow interns through social lunch hours.

As I continue into my final weeks and days of my internship, I expect to continue with these kinds of opportunities, but I do plan to provide at least one more update for where I stand on the ARCgis StoryMaps project that was mentioned several updates ago!

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