Student Summer Internship Experiences: Kelsie Close ’16

Posted on November 18th, 2015 by

In this post, Professor Scott Ickes of the Gustavus History Department, a specialist in Latin American and Brazilian history, interviews senior History major Kelsie Close.

Kelsie Close

Gustavus Adolphus College History Major Kelsie Close ’16

Name: Kelsie Close

Year: Senior (Graduating Spring 2016)

Major: History, Minor: Classics

Hometown: East Bethel, MN

Area of Interest in history: I really enjoy ancient Roman and Greek history as well as European history.  Because of my internship this summer, I am becoming more and more interested in local and public history, however.

Future Plans: I am planning on taking a gap year to gain some experience and then hopefully going to grad school for public and local history.

Favorite book, film, or favorite author related to History: My favorite book relating to history right now is At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle McGuire. It is a counter-narrative about the Civil Rights Movement from the perspective of women, especially Rosa Parks, and her work before the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Favorite city, place, artifact or document relating to History: Rome. I’m a classics minor, so I kind of have to represent.  Rome has such a long and interesting history as well, so it seems fitting.

INTERVIEW

SCOTT: So Kelsie, I heard you had an amazing internship this summer!

KELSIE: Yes, I had an internship with the Scott County Historical Society and Stans Museum. It’s in Shakopee Minnesota. It was a lot of fun! I worked with some amazing people.

The Society and Museum has its own building, built in 1995, in the main part of Shakopee. It was funded by Maury Stans.  He was Postmaster General under Eisenhower, Secretary of Commerce under Nixon, and then Chair of the finance committee for Nixon’s Committee for the Re-Election of the President. During the Watergate scandal, he was very much under a lot of scrutiny…but he was acquitted of all the charges so they said he didn’t do anything, but who knows. And he was from Shakopee. After he retired he wanted people to remember him so he gave a bunch of money to the Scott County Historical Society and much of the building is a museum dedicated to him and his life and work.

SCOTT: And you were working for the Scott County Historical Society, or the Maury Stans Museum?

KELSIE: They are combined. So I did exhibits for all of Scott County and the Historical Society, but I also worked on exhibits for the Stans section of the museum. I had two internships, technically. A Curatorial Intern is basically what they called me. I worked on the Exhibits side and then the Collections side.

SCOTT: So how did you find out about the internship?

Scott County History at the Stans MuseumKELSIE:  I saw an email that was sent to everybody about the job and internship fair last spring. That the Minnesota Historical Society and the Scott County Historical Society would be there. And there was somebody standing at the booth so I went up and talked to her — her name was Stephanie Herrick — and she seemed very interested in me and told me about their internship opportunities over the summer. I was super interested and I give her my resume. Over spring break she set up an interview and I thought it was going to be a one-on-one interview and a panel of four was asking questions! And I was like, Oh my gosh!

SCOTT: Why do you think the interview was successful?

KELSIE: They told me that one of the reasons they liked me was because I have a sense of humor. They don’t want to work with people who are boring, and everyone comes in at the same level of experience. So, how do you choose someone out of a group of people who all have the same experience? And so, the interviewers ask themselves, Who am I going to work the best with? And they thought that I’d have thick skin and could handle the joking that goes one in the office and wouldn’t take offense. They weren’t mean, but they did have fun picking on me as the new guy!

SCOTT: Okay, and was that paid?

KELSIE: Umm, no. [laughter] I wish.

SCOTT: So you were on the archival side and the exhibition side of museum work. Which did you prefer, or were they both equally enjoyable?

KELSIE: I worked more on the exhibits part, but I really enjoyed the collections part. I wish I had been able to do more of it. I was able to go through all this really old collections material that was just supercool. Most of it is related to farming, but it’s still really cool. We had Chief Shakopee’s rifle! It was really creepy though because it’s in the box and it is propped up with two deer hooves and nobody else thought it was morbid. I was like, This is creepy because you’re holding up the gun that killed animals with dead animals. Also there’s a grenade I found from World War II in the collection and I was going through the collections and I was updating the database which is called Past Perfect.  I was updating locations and stuff like that and my boss just handed me a box with a bunch of different things, none of them related, and I was going through it and I was like, Wait. Because it didn’t look exactly like a grenade you see nowadays, and I was like, I think this is a grenade.  And I walked over to my boss and was like, Did you know we have a grenade? And then she’s like, Yeah. And then my other coworkers were like, We have a grenade?!? And it was super funny. There’s a lot of cool stuff like that.

SCOTT: Tell us about the exhibits.

Stans African Collection Exhibit

Stans African Collection Exhibit

KELSIE: I did some work on the Stans exhibit, which takes up the larger part of the museum. So on the very right side under the Watergate section and the Nixon section I put all the gifts from people from his travels [that I found in the collections], and there’s so much cool stuff. Like gifts from like foreign dignitaries. Ivory. Horns. A lot from Africa. A fifth-century votive offering from Greece, which I actually got to put in one of the exhibits. I also put some stuff in the exhibits that I thought was funny, like gifts from his coworkers, like a sword in the stone pen holder, and a crystal ball that say, “For superior forecasts of economic trends.” Maybe nobody else will think it’s funny.

 SCOTT: Well, it reflects his personality and some of the office culture of the period. It sounds like they gave you quite a lot of control over the exhibits?

KELSIE: They basically gave me like complete control. I was not prepared for that. From the interview, they knew I had no experience. But they basically told me a couple sentences of, like, This is what you should do, and then they walked away. And gave me complete control over it. They told me just topics to research and I would research all the stuff and show it to them. They would pick out everything from previous exhibits as they don’t want to repeat too much.

And then there’s stuff that wouldn’t work. I wanted to do an exhibit on Maury’s mother because there’s a lot of his father in the exhibits but not a lot on his mother. I found some cool stuff like shawls she made. But they said it just wouldn’t work, that the material might be affected by the harsh lighting or damaged somehow.

SCOTT: You have to preserve the the collection, of Stans’ mother’s shawls.

KELSIE: Yeah like folded certain ways to keep it in there.

Then, one of the days I worked at the Scott County Fair and we had an oral history trailer. Basically, they converted an old icehouse into a trailer and it’s really nice actually. The outside is all like brightly colored and draws people in and it’s really nicely furnished. It’s got an air conditioner and it’s got all this oral history recording stuff and equipment. It’s really actually good-quality and I think they got a grant for it. I was only working there for one-day but I ended up working on a slow day, on kids’ day at the Fair.  So I didn’t get to interview anybody but they did train me on the equipment and I got to learn how to do that.

SCOTT: Okay so the idea was to interview older people just about their lives or for specific events?

KELSIE: We wanted to know what their experiences were like at the fair. Other interns got some older ladies mostly who wanted to talk about going to the fair for 40 years straight. I did research for the Scott County Fair exhibits and the Fair has a very long tradition. It’s over a hundred years old. So it’s changed a lot. So they record these people’s stories and then everyone gets a CD of their history, and then part of it goes into the collection and then we can use the material later. They signed like deeds of gift and release forms so that we can use it.  It’s really cool.

SCOTT: And there is another exhibit you wanted to tell us about?

Belle Plaine's Churches

Belle Plaine’s Churches exhibit by Kelsie Close ’16

KELSIE: [Well I worked on an exhibit of Churches in Belle Plane, that goes on display at the Historical Society, and then will go on display in the Belle Plane Courthouse.]  So this was the first day I got there and I’m super nervous. I’ve never done work like this before. As a History Major, I know how to research. I’ve been doing this forever. But I don’t know how to do research for this specifically. The first day I go in there they put me on a computer and say here are some topics. Just look them up and figure out everything. Here’s the newspapers. Here’s all the stuff we have on this, on that, find everything you can and then come back to us.

They gave me a list of all the historic churches of Belle Plaine. At first, I was really confused because what they gave me to look at, well, there wasn’t a ton of material and it was confusing because like there were some documents from the 1800s, and then the sources would jump ahead. What happened in between was really hard to work out. It took me a while to figure out what happened. There’s a lot of events like church fires and a lot of things that happened that changed the churches over time, like changing church membership, the impact of immigrants. So I actually started to learn how to research for specific things like that, who to contact, where to go. I learned how to use microfilm, too, so that was really fun.

SCOTT: So then what happens?

KELSIE: So the exhibits like this one are satellite exhibits and they rotate through town halls and courthouses of different cities of Scott County every few months. And one of the reasons they chose churches was because we have a lot of stuff in our collections. For example, photographs and bibles, and I put in church cookbooks, and wedding invitations that were from the early 1900s, so it’s stuff like that to make it super interesting exhibit for people to look at. And you have to write in a style for ordinary people, too, to not turn them off by writing in a too academic way.

For other exhibits, I had to contact people. I did some research for an exhibit coming up next summer on Raceway Park. And I interviewed Kevin Busey who was the announcer for 18 years with the races.  So I called him and I was like, I just need some information and he was like, Oh, I can just come in. He really wanted to be interviewed. He was the first person to announce a race from with in a car during the race.

SCOTT: Wow that’s pretty neat.

KELSIE: Yeah. It was only through these interviews that you find out, like, these big people raced at the race track – like Dale Earnhart – because they’re not always in the news, and it’s really hard to find historical articles sometimes from the smaller newspapers.

SCOTT: It sounds like the experience was very eye opening and educational for you.

KELSIE: So much so. Especially since my boss Teresa gave me free reign on everything. She wants us to learn and get skills out of it, so she was very helpful in making it a learning experience more than just a job.

SCOTT: What kind of skills do you think you picked up?

KELSIE: Research for sure. I thought going in that I knew how to research. But no, I didn’t. I knew the bare bones of researching, but there is so much more. So many different places to research. Like, going into old archives, where I read the newspapers from the 1800s to find stuff.

SCOTT: So, the difference between research for a class, a classroom subject in the secondary sources and actual historical research…

KELSIE: …and primary source research, yeah. Primary research is really cool. I found it really cool. Plus, sometimes I would reach a dead end and then I’d go and look through our collections to find stuff. And there’s histories in there within other things. So, I found cookbooks in the collections, cook books with histories of churches. Like I wouldn’t have thought about that. But I used cookbooks as research tools!

Talking to some of the other interns that went to larger state schools, they had classes that made it easier for them to transition to doing archival research. They had Public History classes. So it wasn’t a hard transition for me, but it was just different, it’s a very different kind of research.

SCOTT: So it sounds like you’d recommend this to other Gusties to apply?

KELSIE: Oh, for sure. I’ve had jobs where the job wasn’t hard but the people were terrible. And that made the job hard work. But this job I loved. I loved the work and I loved the people. It made such a difference becoming friends with my coworkers.  All of them were awesome.

SCOTT: How do you think you grew as a person from this experience?

KELSIE: I definitely learned a lot. I learned how to do things for myself. I learned a lot about how to research and I’ve learned a lot about what I want to do with my future. Because now I know that I want to go into public history right after college, and how to use my history degree. Yeah that’s what I want to do. It will be a lot more work but it’s worth it. I want to go to grad school and get into museum work somehow.

SCOTT: And it sounds like you gained a lot of confidence from the experience, from having pushed through the hard patches and being successful.

KELSIE: Yeah, I was kind of scared definitely when I went there. I had never done it before. I didn’t know anybody. I was all alone and they gave me all this work, but I learned so much. And I think that if I go into it in the future then I’ll be less scared to start. My boss, she was not very good at offering criticism or praise, so it was hard to know if I was doing a good job sometimes. And I didn’t know she thought I was doing a good job till my last day. But on my last day she said, “You did good work.”

SCOTT: That’s a great note to end on! Thank you Kelsie, it sounds like you had an invaluable experience.

KELSIE: Thank you.

NOTES:

If you would like to learn more about internships with the Scott County Historical Society and the Maury Stans Museum, it’s here: http://scottcountyhistory.org/

You can also ask your history advisor about internships with Historical Societies and archives in the upper Midwest.

The above interview was conducted on September 24th 2015 by Scott Ickes. Thanks to Evan Drantch ’16 for the work on transcribing. This is an edited transcript. For the full transcript, you can contact the Gustavus History Department.

 

 

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