For the next two semesters, I will be interning with the Smithsonian Institution, specifically through their Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. While this group is multi-facetated, I will be working on one of their projects in particular, the Conflict Culture Research Network. To sum it up as briefly as possible, the goal of this project is to document all of the cultural heritage sites throughout the world. Currently, no single list exists that compiles such sites. Our efforts will work to fix this. With such a list, we would be able to better locate sites of cultural heritage in events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, or even human destructions to sites were to occur. In these cases, a list of sites within a damaged nation, would help us assist these sites and save whatever culture heritage we could.
As our work with the Smithsonian began, the US and Caribbean got hit with three major hurricanes within a week. Suddenly, our project became imperative. The three George Mason interns were told to immediately focus on documenting museums in the Caribbean. As we got to work on this, I was tasked with focusing solely on Puerto Rico, as so much damage occurred to this island with Hurricane Maria.
My main project, currently, is to work on a spreadsheet that contains a list of museums in Puerto Rico. We need to record their latitude and longitude, along with other information about their cultural affiliations and holdings. While working on this spreadsheet, we received a spreadsheet from FEMA, listing the museums they believe exist in Puerto Rico. I was then tasked with comparing our list with theirs, and adding any sites that were missing from the FEMA list. This is the most recent task in the project that I have been working on.
So far, I am enjoying this internship. It is important work that has a very clear purpose, especially now with the recent massive hurricanes hitting the US and Caribbean. I also enjoy the simplicity of the task, though that doesn’t mean it is easy. Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to discern aspects of the museums, which museum is which, and also specificities of the museums. This is especially true for the smaller, local museums.
I also feel very connected to the Smithsonian, even as a “virtual intern.” I was able to go to the Smithsonian for our initial meeting and meet some of the people working on this initiative. I may also get the chance to go into the Smithsonian more often later on in the semester.
I am very excited to continue working on this project and delve deeper into other components of the project.