By Christian Rice
When I found out that I would need to write a few blog posts throughout the summer for this internship, I was … worried. Worried about making the posts interesting, and informative, and funny. And then I realized I would have to do them no matter what, so I just said … well, I don’t think I can repeat what I said, but you probably get the gist.
Now enter stage going-to-invoke-mid-2000s-peak-hipster-blogging-realness.
The Goal: Find a cute coffee shop with decent coffee and good Wi-Fi, set up shop in said coffee house and let the creative genius flow, instantaneously become world-wide blogging sensation (because are you really a member of our generation if you’re not seeking instant gratification?), look cute while doing all the above.
The Reality: My plan started out great; it was like divine intervention. Right across the street from the Lincoln Home site is the historic Lindsey/Maisenbacher home which houses Wm. Van’s Coffee House. It has everything: the coffee, the internet, it’s a short walk from work, and as a bonus they even serve great, vegetarian friendly food. (The veggie naan is amazing).
FUN FACT: Lindsey borrowed money from Abraham Lincoln to help cover the down payment on the house.
Unfortunately, that’s about as far into the checklist as I got. The endless flow of creative genius I was hoping for? More like a dried-up creek. I, for the life of me, could not think of anything to write. I’d get a sentence or two, read it over, delete it. It was like that for a good half hour or so until I finally gave up.
That was a week ago, when this post probably should have been turned in. Fast forward to today, and I am on the couch writing this, in my pajamas, hair in a bun, and reruns of Bones are playing on the TV in the background.
Is it the blog-writing experience I was gunning for? No.
Have the words been spilling onto the page? Also no. This is taking forever.
Is there a moral to this story that you should walk away with? Yes.
And that is? Don’t wait until the last minute to turn your -ish in.
No, but in all seriousness, what little advice I do have is this: Don’t let your expectations, whether they be high or low, rule your experiences.
Okay, with that little preface out of the way, I can finally share what the first few weeks of my internship have been like.
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is in Springfield, Illinois. This site, which consists of 13 historic homes on four-and-a-half square blocks within the city, was authorized by President Richard Nixon in 1971 and was officially established on October 9, 1972.
Whether it be through a tour of the Lincoln Home, or by exploring the many indoor and outdoor exhibits, visitors can uniquely discover what life was like in 1860s Springfield.
I grew up in southern Illinois, only a couple of hours from Springfield. I think I can speak for many of us who have grown up in Illinois when I say that, no matter what part of the state we are from, we often feel a sense of pride in the connection we have to Lincoln and his story. So, when I discovered this CRDIP internship opportunity at the Lincoln Home Site, I applied for it immediately. Not only would I have the chance to work close to home, but I would be doing work related to my academic studies (anthropology/archaeology), and I could feed off that “hometown” pride associated with Lincoln.
FUN FACT:Lincoln and his family lived in this home for 17 years, and it is the only home Lincoln owned.
My job at Lincoln Home is to catalog and store artifacts collected from the restoration of the homes and outbuildings at the site. Some of the artifacts I work with include doors, windows, plaster, nails, and other building materials.
My supervisor, Susan Haake, didn’t hold back when she assigned me my first task at the site. It was tough. It was back breaking. It was … picking up tiny rocks off the floor of the Lincoln Home. You laugh, but what I said is true. Spend several minutes hunched over the floor and then come back. You’ll see.
My next job involved the artifacts housed in storage. I was tasked with pulling out all the artifacts that came from the DuBois House and sorting through them. We’re talking windows, and boards, and plaster (piece of cake after those Lincoln Home rocks). I then wrote down detailed descriptions of each artifact and gave them catalog numbers, both of which I will be entering into the online database as the next step.
My background in archaeology mainly focuses on pre- contact peoples and associated artifacts. I’ve had limited interaction with historic artifacts before this internship, so there’s been a bit of a learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed learning about these new-to-me artifacts and the insight they hold into Lincoln’s life.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve also had the opportunity to visit some of the other Lincoln- centered attractions in Springfield. My first weekend in town, I spent some time walking through the beautiful Lincoln Memorial Gardens. I also had the opportunity to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential museum.