Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Exploring History at the Fraunces Tavern Museum

Mark Kavanaugh, a student in the Verrazano Class of 2013 studying English Literature with minors in Spanish and History, is participating in an internship at the Fraunces Tavern Museum this spring.

Hi, Mark.  Thank you for your interest in sharing more about your internship at the Fraunces Tavern Museum. Can you tell us a bit about the museum?

I am interning at the Fraunces Tavern Museum in Lower Manhattan. It is a small museum specializing in the early American colonial and revolutionary period. The museum is housed in a building built in 1719 and was actually used as a tavern in colonial New York.  Its claim to fame is that many revolutionary activities took place there and Washington had his final dinner with his troops in its dining room. Today it is owned by the Sons of the Revolution and boasts an impressive collection of art, manuscripts, and other artifacts.

Outside of the Fraunces Tavern Museum

How did you find your internship at the museum?

I actually found my internship through The Verrazano School. Last October I received an email about it. They were looking for interested undergraduates with majors in English and history. I’m interested in museum studies as well, so it seemed like a perfect fit.

That's great, and it goes to show that staying updated with communications from the program can lead to exciting opportunities!  What was the internship application process like?

The application process was extremely smooth. I just emailed the curator, Jessica Baldwin, with my resume and cover letter. A couple of days later she contacted me about setting up an interview. The interview was very relaxed and interesting. She offered me the internship on the spot!

That sounds like you had a successful interview!  Was there anything you were concerned about prior to starting the internship?

Not really. Jessica, the curator, made me really comfortable. The vibe in the museum is very warm and relaxed. The staff is extremely small (there are only three of us), so it really feels close knit and welcoming. I was very excited about starting at Fraunces!

Flag gallery

One of the main galleries

Is your internship credit-bearing, paid, unpaid, etc.?

The internship is unpaid, but I’m getting quite a bit of experience!

Internships are an excellent way to gain experience, and we can't stress enough the importance of students participating in internships during their undergraduate years.  What made you decide to pursue the internship at the Fraunces Tavern Museum instead of a different internship?

This opportunity appealed to me because I’m interested in a library science or museum studies degree in the future. This internship gives me the best of both worlds, since the museum is very rich in both artifacts and books. I’ve been able to spend time with the museum collection as well as the impressive library and see what a career in these fields is really like. I knew it would be a great learning experience and it has been.

Are there any additional benefits to your internship?

I do get free entry to the museum (and for my guests, as well) and for special events that they sponsor.

Maybe we should arrange an excursion for Verrazano students to visit the museum.  That could be fun.  What has it been like working with other interns or the staff at the museum? 

I am the only student working on my particular day. However, my experiences with the staff have been really fantastic. Jessica and I often work closely together and she is always willing to help me with anything. The environment is just really open, and everyone is dedicated to the museum’s mission. The staff always has the best interests of the museum in mind and are ready to cooperate on any task to make it better or more accessible to the public.

Meeting hall for Sons of the Revolution

Please describe a typical day at your internship.

Typically, I would have a project which would take several weeks. So every day that I was there would just be a continuation of these projects. My first one was cataloging and organizing over three hundred engravings from the nineteenth century depicting scenes from the American Revolution. Next I transcribed the daily journal of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge (the book was dated July-September 1776). Right now I’m working on organizing and cataloging rare books in the museum’s library. So my daily tasks include checking the condition of the item, updating it in the computer system, preserving it in the correct way, photographing it, and preparing it for proper storage.

This sounds like very good experience for your future career.  What has been the most interesting thing about your internship?

The most interesting thing has been the opportunity to work with centuries-old artifacts. Holding a book written when our country was five days old is an experience that I’ll never forget. Handling and preserving these artifacts and manuscripts makes me feel like an active part of history. It’s extremely important to save them and make them accessible so that Americans can feel closer to our national roots. In short, my work at the museum has felt very meaningful.

How does your internship experience relate to your undergraduate studies (major or minor) and/or your future goals?

The internship relates to my minor in history and has given me an opportunity to work with primary sources which many people never get to see. And like I said before, it’s given me sort of a preview of what librarianship and being a curator are really like.

Do you anticipate that your internship may to other opportunities with that organization or a related organization?

I certainly hope that this internship will open more doors for me. It’s important to build one’s resume in a field which is so dependent on experience. If a more permanent place at Fraunces were offered to me, I would happily accept, though!

To learn more about the Fraunces Tavern Museum, please visit: http://www.frauncestavernmuseum.org/

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