Monday, 11 May 2015

INTERNSHIP CHECK-IN: LET THE (HANDS-ON) LEARNING BEGIN!

INTERNSHIP CHECK-IN

BY: MADELEINE ADAMSON

It’s hard to believe that just one month ago, first-year MMSt-ers were finishing up final assignments (and battling chilly early-April weather!).

Fast-forward to steamy mid-May. Most students are now knee-deep in exciting summer internships. Arguably one of the most thrilling aspects of entering a new workplace is getting the institution’s inside scoop. In this first edition of Internship Check-in, Lindsay Small, Dan Panneton and Janine Zylstra share their enthusiasm about their summer projects, some intriguing discoveries and even some tips for budding museum professionals.

Flying High in Brantford

Lindsay Small, who began her internship last week at Canada’s second-oldest flying club, is understandably chuffed to have earned the official title of Brantford Flying Club and Municipal Airport Museum Curator. Lindsay will be delving into the Brantford Flying Club’s history in order to produce an online exhibit that will allow visitors to discover more about the Club, which opened in 1929, and the people who worked and flew there over the years.


Photo by Lindsay Small

Her whirlwind first week involved exploring the Club’s on-site collection. “Luckily they have kept most of their newsletters from 1951 on. [It was quite amazing] to see what people were talking about with regard to aviation in a pre–moon landing era,” she says.

Lindsay also points out that the Club is still a tight-knit community with a proud history: “They still have pilots in their eighties and nineties who come to visit. They call them the knights of the round table!”

Hidden Histories at Campbell House

With the exception of the first and the final inhabitants of Campbell House, there remains considerable ambiguity as to who dwelled within its walls between 1845 and 1971. One of the main objectives of Dan Panneton’s summer internship is to produce detailed timelines surrounding the House’s original Duke/Adelaide St. East location and its current spot at Queen St. West and University Ave.

Dan has enjoyed getting his hands on early censuses, city fire insurance maps, and private society blue books. While examining the 1842 census, he made an intriguing discovery about a member of the Campbell household who had escaped prior researchers’ attention—a “female coloured person.” The census states that the property occupied by Lady Campbell on Duke Street held eight individuals, seven of whom have their national origins listed. The house held one “[native] of the United States” and an “[alien] not yet naturalized.”

Photo by Dan Panneton.

“I’m currently kicking around the idea that…she may have been a runaway slave working as a servant for the Widow Campbell,” says Dan. “If this is the case, her presence in Upper Canada would be significant, since the British Parliament had banned slavery only nine years prior.”

Unfortunately, he says, “closure is a foreign concept in historical research” and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to uncover much more about the woman’s story in municipal and provincial records. Nevertheless, Toronto history buffs would be well advised to follow up with Dan later in the summer to learn more about his findings.

Interpretive Planning Meets Marine Invertebrates

It’s not unusual for Janine Zylstra to encounter large furry animals on her walk to work. And no, she isn’t referring to the myriad raccoons rummaging through Toronto dumpsters—she’s talking polar bears and pandas. In case you haven’t guessed, Janine is spending the summer at the Toronto Zoo as an Interpretive Planning Co-op Intern within the Fishes and Marine Invertebrates Department.

Three weeks in, she’s already enjoyed a crash course in fish biology. She’s also conducted in-depth research on exhibit labels and current trends in zoo/aquarium interpretation. Next project? New interpretative graphics for the Darwin's Dreampond: Chichlids of Lake Malawi exhibition.


"Darwin's Dreampond: Cichlids of Lake Malawi" exhibition at the Toronto Zoo. Photo by Janine Zylstra.

Janine is eager to share some of her newfound wisdom with prospective future interpretive planners: “Understanding your institution is key! Becoming well acquainted with an institution’s mission, mandate and goals will help determine how you will write exhibit labels that make the visitor aware of who you are and what you do. Understanding your visitors is also crucial when it comes to deciding what information to communicate and how.”

Always on the hunt for more research comparisons, Janine is interested in seeing comments from Musings readers about some of the best or most memorable zoo/aquarium exhibitions they’ve been to — and why.

Thank you for sharing, Lindsay, Dan, and Janine, and best of luck with your ongoing summer projects!

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