This summer, I interned at the Oberlin Heritage Center in Oberlin, Ohio. Essentially, it is the town’s historical society, but it also functions as a museum and historic home. The museum itself consists of three buildings — the Monroe House, Jewett House and the Little Red Schoolhouse. All had a unique role in the development and history of the town of Oberlin as well as Oberlin College (both founded in 1833). In addition to being a historic home, the Monroe House functions as the offices and working space of the museum and houses its collections. Consequently, this is where I spent the majority of my time.
The main aspect of my work involved dealing with the museum’s various collections. I worked with the Collections Manager as we inventoried, accessioned and de-accessioned several items. It was incredibly interesting to be able to see the work of a museum from behind the scenes and to see how the items are cared for and accounted for so carefully. I enjoyed being able to see the full extent of the museum artifacts including those not on display.
When I was not working on collections, I spent time digitizing oral histories. The Heritage Center began a project several years ago seeking to capture history in an interview format. However, most of the interviews were recorded on cassette tapes. Therefore, in order to preserve the oral histories beyond the life of the tapes, I converted them to digital files for future use while also making sure there were no sound issues or missing parts.
Toward the end of my internship, I helped with several summer history camps that the Heritage Center puts on each year for children in the area. The camp themes included Ancient Cultures, Architecture, and Pioneer Living and gave me a taste of the Heritage Center’s community involvement. Overall, I learned about the many aspects of operating a museum while truly enjoying my experience at the Oberlin Heritage Center.