Hello, everyone! In case you don’t know—my name is Haley, I’m an Indiana native, and for most of 2018 I sported rainbow hair. These are the 3 key components of my personality.
[End of audio]
Just kidding, there is a fourth, very significant portion of my identity that I’d venture to guess you all share with me—and that is my love for history. Strap in and prepare to witness my origin story.
My first memorable “ah-ha!” history moment hit when I was 16 years old, standing inside the gates of the Dachau concentration camp during a high school summer study trip of Central Europe. It seems rather simple now—that my interest in history came from what now feels sort of like a voyeuristic experience. We came, we saw, and we moved on to the next city. Still, the pain of the past was tangible, and I was hooked with a desire to learn more about the people who suffered and all of the events that led up to the manufacture of those gates. This interest propelled me into declaring a history concentration as soon as I arrived at Manchester University for my undergraduate degree.
It was my sophomore year of undergrad before the next “ah-ha” moment struck. This time I was rooming with a graduate student named Chelsea who’s semester project involved studying visitor responses to exhibit design. She was pursuing a degree in museum education, but during the summer she interned as an archives technician at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. Talking with her transformed my perception of archives from a dusty old basement (which is still often true) to an arsenal of stories waiting to be used. Chelsea was the first person who gave me the often-said and very important advice: Volunteer, apply for internships, get as much experience as possible.”
With her encouragement, I began helping out at the campus archives under the guidance of Jeanine—a spitfire Church of the Brethren woman who was passionate about MU presidents and finishing the 20 foot goddess mural on the side of her horse barn. I spent my next two years learning basic arrangement and description practices and playing “Lion King”* with Jeanine’s five year old granddaughter.
Deciding to leave Indiana (and the Midwest in general) was a big step, but one that I felt was necessary not only to receive a unique graduate experience, but to prove to myself that I could re-establish myself in a new place. Enrolling at American and moving to D.C. has been more rewarding than I could have dreamed. Despite my continued interest in becoming an archivist, I decided to study Public History in lieu of a Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS). After discussing higher education with my mentors, I concluded that a more general degree would offer practical skills for working with museum audiences and then I could simultaneously focus on bolstering my archival experience. While I’ve only got one semester under my belt, I feel like the dedication of our AU professors and the opportunities to connect with other historians is unmatched.
For example, Trevor Owens, the Head of Digital Content Management at the Library of Congress, is teaching our class about how to relate technology and social media to public history. That sixteen year old kid from paragraph three never envisioned that my life could be open to so many possibilities. I’m really looking forward to learning more about the current software that museums and archives are using, and how the general public consumes history through their devices and games. Good luck to us all over the course of this semester. I can’t wait to see what is in store!
*Lion King, also sometimes referred to as “Jungle,” consisted of a five year old’s requests to be lifted into the air like a baby Simba. Rafiki was to be played by an off-the-clock archives intern.