Name: Anna E. Shuff
Class Year: 2022
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Internship Organization: American Philosophical Society (APS)
Job Title: Curatorial Intern
Endowed Internship Funding Award: Miriam Schultz Grunfeld Memorial Internship Fund
Why did you apply for this internship?
I have a deep passion for museums and museum studies, and have worked in museums on and off for the past five or so years. Prior to this internship, all of my work has been “front of house,” meaning I interacted directly with museum guests. Working as a curatorial intern gave me the opportunity to work “behind the scenes,” and to be directly involved in the process of research and development which will eventually inform an exhibition.
What’s happening at your internship?
For the past 10 weeks I have been doing preliminary research for an exhibition on climate science, which is slated to open at the American Philosophical Society’s museum in 2022. This exhibition is in the very early stages of planning and development, so my task was to do primary- and secondary-source research with an eye to larger themes which will inform the structure of the exhibition, as well as the objects that will be included within it. My thematic focus for my research was the historical relationship between climate and the human body, and as a result I ended up reading and taking notes on a number of historical medical texts. For the entirety of this process I worked closely with the exhibition’s curator, Dr. David O. McCullough, and alongside another intern.
Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?
My work this summer has been an absolutely invaluable exercise in research, including how to find, judge, and annotate texts not only for my own understanding, but also for the understanding of my coworkers and supervisors. Prior to this, I had done research for projects, but nothing so intensive, and certainly nothing that required my notes to be comprehensible to another human being. Taking notes for an audience other than myself really drove me to understand and distill the information in front of me, which forced me to develop a deeper understanding of the sources themselves.
What is most rewarding about your internship?
It’s been an incredibly gratifying process to research a subject I had very little initial familiarity with, and to build a concrete body of knowledge and sources from the ground up as I went along. My internship culminated with a presentation of my research to the staff of the APS, and being able to speak confidently and knowledgeably on a subject that I had dedicated myself to was an incredible feeling.
Visit the Summer 2020 Internships page to read more student stories.