Summer Intern Chronicles: Allison Smith from Smith College

Intern at Jericho Historical Center in West Dennis
Smith College intern Allison Smith at work in period clothing at the Jericho Historical Center in West Dennis (Courtesy of Ms. Smith)

This is part of a continuing series of "Summer Intern Chronicles" that Cape Cod Today will publish throughout the season.  Many local college students undertake internship experiences during summer break.  These internships can truly form a young person as a professional in their chosen career path.  For many, the internship is their first work experience in the career they hope to pursue.  These internship stories are intended to give the students an opportunity to share their experiences, showcase the work of their sponsoring organization and put in a plug for their college.  The stories are written in the students' own words and published verbatim as submitted.  

If your Cape & Islands or Plymouth organization hosts summer interns and you'd like them to participate, please email [email protected] and we will send you the project guidelines.

Allison Smith from Smith College

My name is Allison L. Smith. I am a resident of South Dennis and a 2016 graduate of Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School. I now attend Smith College in Northampton, MA. As a rising Junior I will continue to pursue my major in History with a focus on Women’s history. I also minor in Archaeology and am a part of the Archives Concentration. For the past two summers I have interned at the Baker House and Barn Museum at the Jericho Historical Center
located in West Dennis. My first summer there I learned general facts and stories about the property and was able to give tours to visitors. This summer I was given more freedom to begin independent projects, including the opportunity to curate the upstairs attic in the house. While this was an exciting endeavor, I expressed a greater interest in historical clothing which the directors allowed me to pursue. They helped me to begin the lengthy process of cataloging and preserving the worn-out materials. This summer, to our surprise, we uncovered an old trunk full of a Cape Cod family’s wardrobe which needed proper storage. I have been analyzing each article of clothing, ensuring that it is in well enough condition to keep, tagging them with individual numbers so that future historians can easily find the clothes again, measuring the garments, and identifying what each piece would be called as well as the time period it may have come from. I then record all of this information onto cards which the museum keeps on file. Once I properly record each item I package them away in Acid-Free boxes which will be stored and preserved at the Josiah Dennis Manse Museum in Dennis. Historical clothing is another aspect of history which is often forgotten or seen as less important. However, for example, handling a 19th century wedding dress truly does tell historians the style of the time, the wealth of the individual who may have worn it, and how life may have been centuries ago.

I am overwhelmingly grateful for this internship particularly because the skills I have learned at Jericho might not have been taught in a traditional classroom. I have learned that history can be a “hands on” study and I have been able to touch history, which is far different than reading about it. Through the guidance and advice of my fellow volunteers I have begun to identify different fabrics and how best to preserve each individual fabric, this is only accomplished by personally handling each item. Most classrooms, even on the Cape, would not provide many regional stories; sifting through clothes, old household items, and more, aids my understanding of my hometown.

Working with the volunteers at the Baker House and Barn Museum has truly altered my future professional plans. Going into college I wanted to be a history teacher. But after interning at Jericho, I realized that rather than tell people about history, I want to show them history. My new goal is to obtain a Master’s Degree and work in a historical society where I can curate, archive, and research that area’s past. Unfortunately, while there are numerous historical
societies here on the Cape, there are few which provide paid positions. Therefore I would most likely need to find a larger program elsewhere in New England.

My advice to other college students who are seeking an internship is to just go for it. Pursue what you are passionate about and take a risk to get it. Ask anyone and everyone in your desired field if they would consider having you intern. Having an internship opens doors to new people, experiences, and jobs which you may not have known about before; networking is one of the best advantages of having an internship. Many students may be deterred from applying for an internship because it will most likely be unpaid, but remember that the time you put in now for your future career will only pay off in the long run. Experience, contacts, and resume material is some of the most important payment. Taking the time to volunteer and learn, even once a week, will let employers know that you not only care about learning the field of study, but that you are willing to work hard for it.


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