It has been around nine months since I began my internship with the Smithsonian. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost over!
Overall, this was the perfect internship for me. While I don’t necessarily believe that this internship taught me much about Digital Humanities, it was a great opportunity to work with an organization like the Smithsonian on such an important project.
The mission of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative is to “protect cultural heritage threatened or impacted by disasters and to help U.S. and international communities preserve their identities and history” (SCRI Website). A goal of the group is to collect information on museums from around the world. Ultimately, this data would be used to create a global list of all museums in the world. With this list, any site at risk of destruction would have a better chance to be saved. Once this list had been compiled, the idea was to create a map of all of these sites for public use. It would be the first time a list of all museums from the entire world had been created.
The SCRI has been working on compiling this list for only a couple of years. So far, the SCRI has compiled museum and cultural heritage data on around eighty-one countries. Not all of the datasets for these countries have been completed, but various interns have been working on the data.
The George Mason interns first worked on Caribbean datasets, since the many hurricanes from last summer/fall had done much destruction to this region. Organizations tasked with aiding in hurricane recovery needed information on the museums of the Caribbean as quickly as possible. Then, in the second semester of this internship, we were each assigned the dataset of a country of our choice. I received the Poland dataset, which was around eighty percent complete at that moment.
To complete the dataset, we needed to fill in the following information about each museum or cultural heritage site: longitude and latitude, whether the site is known locally, nationally, or internationally, whether the site is affiliated with the state, whether the site had a military function, as well as a description of the site. To compile this information, I had to do a lot of internet searches. All of the searching meant that, in the end, I really had learned a lot about the sites we were researching.
I am happy to have been able to work on this internship. I feel proud to have worked with the SCRI, to have worked on a project like this. Even before this internship, I had a strong passion for cultural heritage. With this internship, I could learn more about organizations that are working to save cultural heritage around the world, while learning about museums in various countries.
Towards the end of the internship, we were tasked with finding a way to map all of the data that had been collected up until that point. As a group, we tried to find the best platform for such a map. It was decided that we would use Google Fusion Tables for the map. Before this, I had never used Google Fusion Tables, so it was a good experience for me to be able to experiment with this program. We ran into some issues with the program, and ultimately I’m not sure if it was the best program to use. I was glad that I had some previous mapping experience from the GMU Digital Public Humanities program. This previous knowledge helped me figure out this new website and work through the issues that I had run into along the way. Ultimately, we were able to map all of the sites and figure out some ways to manipulate the program to function better for us. In this way, I did gain some digital humanities experience in using a new-to-me program and working with others to map this data.
In the end, this really was the perfect internship for me. Concurrently with the internship, I was working on finishing up my Masters degree. This internship’s style and type of work was therefore perfect for the hectic nature of my life this past year. Not only was it a virtual internship, so I could work on it on my own time, but it was very peaceful, tedious work. I do wish that they had given us more time to work on the map portion of the project. Despite that, it was still a very enjoyable internship and I feel as though I learned a lot about the Smithsonian’s work around the world.