Friday, August 28, 2009

The Beauty of Interns

I believe having interns is one of the best ways one can contribute to the field. I know I learned a lot through internships, all of which helped prepare me for my role at the LHS today.

Since I began working here last June, we've had a number of really great interns. These interns have helped us in a number of ways--creating public programs, organizing collections, and creating interpretive materials. This summer was no exception and in the past 2 weeks or so, we've had a couple of intern projects wrap up quite nicely.

This spring and summer we had a really great intern named Eli Pousson. Eli is a recent MA graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park. He worked with us to put together a shortened version of our walking tour and an accompanying online version. He knows a lot more about computers and fancy programs like In-Design than I do, so it was really great getting to work with him.

With the help of our 2006 Walking Tour, Eli created a shortened tour based on 5 themes. This tour is available both at the Museum and online.

Next, he placed an extensive number of the sites on the 2006 Walking Tour on a map online along with images.

Although we still have a few kinks to work out for the Online Walking Tour, we are now proud to present both of these new products to the public. You can access them online by clicking here. As I mentioned, the Online Walking tour has a few kinks--we're trying to see if we can embed it in the website. But if the link doesn't work for you the first time, try, try again!

Another of our interns this summer was Lauren Hanna. Lauren is an undergrad at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who wanted to get her feet wet in the Museum field.

She began her work by reading a little about collections work in the Museum field. She learned how to navigate our collections database, Past Perfect, by scanning some images and attaching them to their corresponding catalogue record.

Once she was comfortable with PP, we settled on a project for her that involved inventorying our Historic Kitchen, locating accessioned objects in PP and collecting descriptions of un-accessioned objects from our Education Collection. She took a picture of every single object in the kitchen and matched it with a corresponding description. She then put all of this useful information in a binder.

The binder is now located in the Kitchen as a very extensive gallery guide. It will definitely prove to be useful reading for our volunteers who are interested in learning all about the Kitchen.

So there you have it--2 very important projects completed solely through the efforts of interns.

These are just the two most recent of many interns that the LHS has had help us over the past year.

I am very grateful to all of our interns for their efforts.

Thank you Eli Pousson, Lauren Hanna, Christine Powers, Jessica Bulger, Kevin Alvarez, and Joe Heinen!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The End of the Summer

Today it is 90 degrees out, but I know the summer is winding down at the Laurel Historical Society.

How do I know?

Because things have become much quieter in the past couple of weeks.

Our high school community service volunteers have completed their last day. Our college community service volunteer complete his last day. Our intern finished her project and completed her last day. Our Junior Docents put some final touches on their video projects before our filming day. Even our campers from the City of Laurel Parks and Recreation Camp have finished their visits to the Museum.

During the height of the summer, things were a little crazy. Space (and especially computer time) was limited and young volunteers, interns, junior docents, and our regular volunteers vied for time and space in the Museum. Some days it was hectic.

But almost everyday the Museum was filled with energy--people moving around getting things done.

So what do we have to show for it?

We have an even more organized photograph collection. We have bags of goodies filled for visitors. We have a children's activity booklet available for our younger visitors. We have a new guide to our historic kitchen to let our volunteers know exactly what is down stairs. We have the outline for a video project to be completed in the fall.

More importantly, we have some more dedicated volunteers.

Our intern is returning this fall to continue working on collections project. Our college community service volunteer has asked whether he can return over winter break to help out. Our high school community service volunteer has already called her "slot" for next summer. Our Junior Docents will continue to work on their project in a short couple of weeks.

So even though things are a little quieter here now, I know it won't last for long.

And that's good thing!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Piecing Together History

Sometimes history can be really fun.

Here at the LHS we're preparing for our upcoming exhibit comparing life in Laurel in 1910 and in 2010.

The inspiration for this exhibit is a series of photographs taken by Bert Sadler. The images he produced depict life in Laurel in the early 1900s and are really wonderful. One of those pictures is here on the right. This image of the Emancipation Day parade in the early 1900s shows a vibrant community event.

Other than this picture and some articles from the Laurel leader within the last 20 years, I didn't know much about the Emancipation Day parade tradition in Laurel.

Then I went and spoke to Miss Katie Hopkins. Boy, did I learn a lot!

As I related in a previous post, Miss Katie told me all about life in Laurel growing up 100 years ago. She told me of Emancipation celebrations that lasted for long weekends where out-of-towners were able to visit and stay with members of the St. Mark's church.

What a great story! I was so excited to hear about how much of a community event the Emancipation Celebration was. Miss Katie, as sharp as she is at a ripe 102, was able to tell me details of the celebration--baseball games, parades, barbeques.

I was excited to hear her recount her stories, but I really wanted to know even more--what exactly happened during those early fall celebrations?

Imagine my excitement when Frieda, a member of our exhibits committee brought to my attention newspaper articles from the 1910 Laurel Leader. Listed in them were a number of various events taking place in the Grove--all during the same weekend in early September. The same weekend that was always reserved for the Emancipation Celebration.

Here, in black and white, was the vibrant celebration that Miss Katie had told me about and that was depicted in Bert Sadler's image.

I was very excited to see all these clues fall into place!

Now for the fun part--piecing this story into the larger story of Laurel in 1910 and in 2010!

Monday, August 3, 2009

An Interview with Miss Katie Hopkins

Last week I had the opportunity to interview a long time member of the Laurel Community. Born in Laurel in 1906, Miss Katie Hopkins has seen Laurel go through many changes.

As we prepare for our next exhibit comparing Laurel in 1910 to Laurel in 2010, we are busy interviewing people in the community who can help us tell the story of Laurel today. Sandy Johnson, the historian of St. Mark's Church delightfully informed me that there is someone whom she knows who can speak about Laurel in 1910! So, with the help of Sandy and Jackie from St. Mark's church, it was arranged for me to meet with Miss Katie to discuss life in 1910 in preparation for our upcoming exhibit. (In reality, I was so excited to meet her that I would have been willing to talk about anything.)

I met with Miss Katie at the Laurel Rehabilitation Center and she told me some wonderful stories. She told me about her childhood spent jumping rope with friends, taking sleigh rides and traveling to Washington on the trolley for her music lessons. She painted an image of a small town where everyone knew everyone and Teaser's Ice Cream Parlor, where her father worked, had "real" ice cream. She talked about people coming from far away to celebrate Emancipation Day with St. Mark's Church. She spoke of how church members opened their homes to these visitors and of a town filled with hospitality.

I wasn't surprised at all to hear such a depiction of life in Laurel. These stories seem to come through whether you talk to people about Laurel in the 1950s or Laurel in the early 1900s.

Instead of surprising me, what the stories do is make me wonder what we'll find in our upcoming exhibit.

Will we find stories of Laurel in 2010 where the hospitality is just as great as in 1910?
Will members of our Exhibit Advisory Committee tell of us a community bound to itself, where people take care of one another?

I'm not sure what they will tell us. I don't want to push community members to tell us any story, but I know what I think. Laurel is a community that cares.