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.
Andrea Hiler is a Berrien County-native in her senior year of study at Western Michigan University. She will graduate in May with a Bachelor’s degree in Public History. Andrea spent the Fall 2015 semester working as an intern at the Heritage Museum. Before her internship ended in December, Andrea sat down with our Upton Fellow, Claire Herhold, to talk about her time in St. Joseph.
What does an intern at the Heritage Museum do?
Many different things! During my time here, I’ve helped with inventory, processed new artifact collections, worked in the research library, and assisted with public programs.
I’m a full-time student at WMU. This internship gives me hands-on experience that I haven’t had before. My classwork is very theoretical; the internship gives me more practical experience to help me get ready to apply for jobs when I graduate.
What is your favorite part of your internship?
I am so excited to work with the artifacts and accession them. It’s actually really fun! The object I’m holding may have once been very important to someone in the past, and when I get to hold it, the object helps bring history to life.
What is the most challenging part of your internship?
Trying education programs for the first time! I’ve always been more of a “behind-the-scenes” person and I picture myself working in collections, rather than education. When I helped with cemetery tours at the Heritage, it was really enjoyable to try my hand at working with visitors.
How did you get interested in museum work?
Some of my best childhood memories are from when I spent time at a museum. I recognize the importance of using the collections of a museum to educate the community. When I got to college, I was excited to major in a program that let me have hands-on, physical interaction with the artifacts that represent the history I was interested in.
I’m interested in finding an internship at a museum. What advice would you give to someone like me?
Figure out what kind of museum work you think you want to do, whether it’s collections and archival work or education and programming. You want to find an institution that will be more helpful to you. I personally prefer smaller institutions because you can get more experience in all aspects of museum work. My most important piece of advice, though, is to keep working! More experience will help you decide what you want to do.
What do you think makes the Heritage Museum such a special place?
I think the community really makes the Heritage Museum special! I grew up in the area, and the things that I’ve been working with are really special to me. The St. Joseph-Benton Harbor area has a very interesting history that I had previously not known about. I love that the Heritage Museum helps preserve and teach people about that.
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, please send a completed volunteer application (below) and a cover letter to 601 Main Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085 or call (269) 983-1191 for more information.