By Jacqueline DeJong, museum intern.
When I tell people that I intern at the Wenatchee Museum, their initial response is always one of surprise. No one expects a twenty-two year old to have an interest in museum work.
I’m a child of the digital age; my life has seen the quick transition from VCR’s and cassette tapes to Netflix and iTunes. You don’t tend to find a lot of twenty-something in museums because we’ve found everything we want and need to know on our iPhones.
Or so we’d like to think…
To be honest, I haven’t always loved museums. My earliest memory of one is walking through an art gallery in the Midwest when I was about six and feeling desperately bored. But my whole perspective of museums changed a couple years back during my senior year of college. I was finishing up my English degree with an emphasis in female British literature and decided to spend a semester abroad in the UK. I wanted to see the homes of all my favorite authors. The day I went to Haworth Parsonage, the house of the beloved Bronte sisters, proved to be one of the most formative days of my life to date.
I was led down to a dark basement room with a group of other students to see items from the collection not currently on display. Pulling on her latex gloves, our guide picked up a worn little book no more than three inches long and showed it to each of us. “People always think the Bronte’s had a miserable and repressed childhood,” she said, “but they actually did a lot of things that brought them joy. The children used to make up stories together and write them in these tiny books.” She showed me the print. It was too small for me to read a word of it, but I was riveted. There in front of me was a piece of the creativity that had shaped the authors who had shaped me. In that moment, I felt closer to Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte than I ever had before.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I’m passionate about museum work and why I believe it will always be relevant—because no matter how much we’d like to believe that we can condense all our experiences into a digital footprint, coming into contact with a physical object links us to our past more than an article on Wikipedia ever could. And the excitement we feel about connecting with those people on whose shoulders we stand gives us a sense of courage and identity as we move into our own futures.
This is the sort of inspiration I see happening in the Super Summer Adventures currently being held at the Wenatchee Museum. The program is three hours a day, Monday-Thursday through the month of July, and it gives kids the opportunity to experientially learn about achievements in the arts and sciences. A couple weeks ago, I worked with groups of children as they studied DaVinci and his inventions. Each day, an instructor told them stories about DaVinci and showed them diagrams of his work, and then the children had the opportunity to learn through fun hands-on activities.
I watched them squeal with excitement as they built catapults to launch marshmallows, performed plays they had written, constructed 3D maps, and even walked on water with the help of a special pair of water shoes. This is museum work at its best: making children feel that the past isn’t stagnant but that it can instead be in dynamic dialogue with their present reality…and, maybe even more importantly, giving them faith that they have the capacity and creativity to make history, much like the people and objects they’re studying.
Now she’s interning at the Wenatchee Valley Museum while she dreams and plans for her future.