By Zoe Levine
At the beginning of my internship, I didn’t really know what to expect. As the month of June went by, it became more apparent to me what it really means to be part of the National Park Service in Cultural Resources. Although many people do not think of the NPS as being focused on preserving the history of a site at first, it is one of the integral parts of interpretation of the NPS. I truly love how passionate all of the staff at Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park are about their job and connecting to and learning from the other departments that work here. This has given me the ability to think more about my future and what it would look like within the National Park Service. I can honestly say I can imagine myself working in the National Park Service in the future, especially in Cultural Resources!
One of the things I have really appreciated is how much the Park Service has done to make sure that the interns here connect to one another. Because of how close Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, we are able to go to the other park and meet other workers and interns there. Although I have been mostly completing work in galleries, the historic home, Aspet, or in the curatorial building itself, I still have had the opportunity to do things I wouldn’t have been able to do normally in my department. This has included attending leadership sessions with the other Interns. For one of these sessions we were able to hike up Mt. Tom (at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller) which I do not get to do on an every day basis as a Curatorial Intern! I felt so accomplished by being able to hike up and see the Vermont countryside and made me appreciate the work I am doing this summer even more.
Another amazing thing I have been able to experience through this internship is being able to learn how to clean and wax bronze reliefs and sculptures. In my last blog post, I was learning and working on small bronze reliefs, but as the summer progressed, I was able to clean and wax one of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ famous bronze sculptures, The Shaw Memorial. Being able to work on a skill I have wanted to develop since the beginning of the summer was awesome. Preservation of art is so meaningful to historians because it allows the idealism and culture of generations in the past to be interpreted and understood in a modern context, while also analyzing what it meant in the past. That is the number one reason that learning preservation skills is so necessary to me. Being able to maintain this art for the future is an incredible experience I would not want to change.
As July came, everything started to pick up even more. With more visitors coming to the park as the summer progressed, there were more things we needed to do in Cultural Resources, including cleaning the spaces that visitors go into. Dusting and vacuuming may not be the most glamorous job ever, but it allows visitors to have the best experience at the park possible, and allows for the history to really be seen by visitors.
I also got to experience something else I have been looking forward to accomplishing this summer: working on developing exhibits! The other interns and I began to work on our very own exhibit for the Visitor’s Center, but that got put on hold when we were asked to help put together the Curators’ exhibit he had been working on about Augusta Saint-Gaudens (the wife of artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens). Augusta Saint-Gaudens was a woman who held her own, having her own paintings and experiences. Being able to help out with an exhibit that highlights her in this way made me happy. Also, with the exhibit opening in a week, I really was able to see what work was needed to be put into getting an exhibit ready for the public. I learned how to hang paintings in a gallery space and placing objects into exhibit cases (and all the math that it includes!). I also was able to learn how to mount art into a frame and also how to make and mount exhibit labels. Another thing that made me feel accomplished was helping get some of the heavier objects into the gallery space, including two historic trunks that had never been on exhibit before.
Once we finished the exhibit, we all felt so accomplished. Everything I have been able to complete so far in this internship has allowed me to develop skills and experiences I am so proud of. It is hard to believe that my internship is over halfway over at this point, but I am very excited to see what else there is in store for me. I am so thankful for this opportunity and will be forever grateful for the work I have been able to participate in.