Welcome to Meet the Museum, our blog series where we meet the staff of The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center and find out what it’s like to work in a museum.
Sam Van Dyke is a native of Holland, Michigan now in her fifth year of study at Western Michigan University. Sam will graduate in the spring of 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Public History and a minor in Anthropology. Sam spent her two 2016 summer sessions working as an intern at the Heritage Museum. Before her internship ended in August, Sam sat down with our Frederick S. Upton Fellow, Claire Herhold, to talk about her time at the Heritage Museum.
What is your favorite part of your internship?
I have so many favorite parts! I really like being involved in the very first tours of the St. Joseph Lighthouse – that was something I was very excited about. I also like all the behind-the-scenes tasks – digging in the archives and answering research requests for visitors. Research requests are a great chance to learn about something new you never would have thought to look into. I really love local history – that’s why I love working here!
What is the most challenging part of your internship?
The most challenging part of my internship has been coming out of my shell. Public speaking is something that has always made me nervous, and the idea of giving a lighthouse tour was especially nerve-wracking. But starting out in the lantern room of the lighthouse and sharing that history with visitors in such a conversational, fun way – that was really nice for me.
How did you get interested in museum work?
My dad has been dragging me around to museums and historic sites since I can remember! Every time we traveled, we would always go to state capitals and local museums. I started at Western Michigan as an education major, but my history classes were always my favorite. I began to think maybe I should look into doing something that let me concentrate more on that material.
I’m interested in finding an internship at a museum. What advice would you give to someone like me?
Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! Volunteering is a good way to get to know people currently working at museums in your area, which then allows you to meet people and organizations that they collaborate with. A whole network opens up for you if you volunteer!
If you’re currently a student, talk to your professors! That’s how I found this internship. My instructor, Caitlyn Dial, had worked here as the Frederick S. Upton Fellow and Curator, and she sent me this way.
What do you think makes the Heritage Museum such a special place?
So many things! The relationships that the Heritage Museum’s staff have with each other has made working here very welcoming and comfortable. The incredible involvement that the museum has from and with the community is probably my favorite thing about this place. I love that this institution is so invested in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.
Are you or do you know a student interested in museum studies, public history, education, archival science, or non-profit administration? If you’re interested in interning at The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center call (269) 983-1191 for more information.