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My Experience as an Intern with the Monroe County History Center

By Matt Nokes

I remember being interviewed for the role of Permanent Collections and Exhibits Intern during the second week of classes of my senior year. I immediately knew that this would be a great place to work. Hilary and Gabby–curator and assistant curator–were very friendly and made for great supervisors–always offering to help or answer questions. This internship has offered me not only practical skills that will be useful for my future career, but great friendship and even some life advice from everyone I have worked with so far.

My first day at the museum for my orientation was exciting. I met Justin, the office manager, and was given a tour by Andrea, the education manager. Megan, the research librarian, showed me the many helpful resources in the museum’s research library. I went upstairs to my desk and began working, where I learned how to catalog an artifact and prepare it for storage.

Photo of the intern workstation

Julie Kedzie, a Bloomington native and famous women’s UFC fighter, had recently donated some of her memorabilia, and I was assigned to catalog, label, and shelve the items included in her collection. Some highlights from the Kedzie donation include a banner from one of her fights, some of her branded clothing, and even a few pairs of fighting gloves that she used in the octagon! I learned proper archival processes to keep artifacts safe and well-organized. This included labeling certain objects with archival fluids and writing the accession number on the dried liquid. Some textiles, like Kedzie’s fighting gloves, required a label to be sewn on. This took some time to figure out…

I cataloged things for the next few weeks, when Hilary delegated a new project to me–I would be creating a new exhibit in the Education Room, titled New Acquisitions to the Collection. I was assigned as the curator for the display and was responsible for its design. This included pulling artifacts from storage, writing up the descriptive labels, and putting them in the case so that they would be protected and visible to the viewer. The exhibit was my first big project, and it would stay up for a few months.

New Acquisitions to the Collection Exhibit Label

I continued working on accessioning some new donations to the collection for the next few weeks, when I was assigned a truly special task: I would transcribe, organize, and catalog a collection of WW1 correspondence between a soldier stationed in France, and his family back home in Bloomington. This project will be the focus of my next blog post, so keep an eye out for that!

In December of 2022, the sports gallery was in need of a new exhibit and thus I had a new project. I researched a selection of coaching legends from Monroe County and, working with IU Archives, created and installed labels with background on each coach in the lockers area of the Sports Gallery. It was a lot of fun to learn about and was another exhibit that I was responsible for–from start to finish!

Toward the end of December 2022, with the little time I had left before heading home for the holidays, I assisted Hilary and Gabby with installing the holiday exhibit, From Me to You. Andrea then asked if I might film a video for the Museum, highlighting an object from the exhibit. What did I choose? Bloomington classic, Bug Town, of course! What is Bug Town? Watch my video to find out more about this interesting piece of downtown Bloomington’s history:

After coming back from a restful holiday break, I completed another great project. Bloomington City Hall asked if the History Center would create a display on Bloomington civil rights history for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. I did some research and found many interesting artifacts relating to the subject in the museum’s collection, including a program from the first celebration of MLK Day in Bloomington in the 1980s. I installed the exhibit with the help of Aubrey Seader, office manager and program assistant with the Bloomington community and family resources department.

Exhibit on Bloomington Civil Rights History; Displayed in City Hall

Next, I helped put up the Alexander Memorial exhibit, To the Soldiers of All Wars (which is excellent–check it out while it remains on display!). Since March, I have been cataloging new accessions into the collection, performing routine exhibit and collections maintenance, and writing blog posts.

Overall, I have greatly enjoyed my time with the museum. Some of my favorite times were lunches with the staff, the cookie cake party for Susan Jones (one of our volunteers) and the multiple Baked Bloomington cookie breaks with Hilary and Gabby (can you tell there is a theme here?). I can only say great things about the internship program with the Monroe County History Center. I feel very confident that the skills I have gained will further my career in history.