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An Interactive Internship 0 Comment(s)

This summer, I had the privilege to intern at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. I hope to one day work in a Jewish museum, and have served as an intern at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee and as a volunteer docent at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. As a museum studies student with many interests, what attracted me most to the Society was the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects instead of being restricted to one department as is often the case at larger institutions. Some of my projects included:
  • Developing a cumulative timeline of local Jewish history
  • Adding new sections to an online exhibition
  • Helping set up and take down traveling exhibitions
  • Leading tours of the historic Adas Israel synagogue
  • Assisting with public programs and special events
  • Collecting content for an informational fundraising packet
My experiences at JHSGW showed me how small museums meet the challenges that larger museums may never need to worry about. I was thoroughly impressed by the creativity staff members used to collect, preserve, and share local Jewish history to the public. The staff invited me to share my input and become part of the program-building team. I even got to go on staff field trips to visit the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the German-American Heritage Museum, where we shared ideas and experiences with our colleagues. This hands-on approach enabled me to apply what I learned in my scriptwriting, marketing, fundraising, and history classes to real-life situations and tasks in the museum. I really enjoyed being able to work with every member of the JHSGW staff at some point over the course of the summer, whether it was assembling mailings, brainstorming new organizational logos, or leading a tour. 
My favorite undertaking this summer was leading tours of the 1876 Adas Israel Synagogue because I loved interacting with the visitors. The tours gave me the opportunity to share what I had learned about local Jewish Washington with the visitors. I loved the connections that I could draw between national and local history. I loved the discussions and dialogues that often began between the visitors and the museum staff, enabling both audiences to actively participate. More than anything, I loved the wide-open eyes and grins of amazement that the visitors made when I told them that the synagogue had moved three blocks on wheels, and would be moving again. The visitors asked all sorts of great questions, and I had a lot of fun answering them or in some cases throwing the questions back to the audience for ongoing discussion.
I am not ready to leave this internship, but alas my time is up. I plan to continue as a volunteer tour guide for both synagogue and walking tours in the fall, and I look forward to seeing what the Society does next!
Samantha Bass is a second-year Master’s student at The George Washington University, where she studies exhibit development, museum administration, and history.

Learning the Trade 0 Comment(s)

Working with the
Jewish Community Center records
Cataloging the Rosenfeld Collection also afforded an opportunity to experiment with JHSGW’s database software to express more nuanced relationships between items within larger collections, which could eventually benefit online searchers. I look forward to continuing the arrangement of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington Collection as I volunteer in the coming weeks.

Working as archival intern at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington this summer proved both great fun and valuable professional experience. I very much enjoyed pouring over photographs, papers, and scrapbooks in the collections I helped process. Along the way, I learned much about the development of businesses, community institutions, and even families I know today, with walks around my adopted city enriched by the many images of Washington’s past I’ve seen in JHSGW’s collection. Considering that there have always been integral ties between the Jewish and larger communities in the District and beyond, JHSGW’s archival collection reveals much about the broader history of greater Washington as it addresses its core narrative of local Jewish history.

In addition to participation in a range of public and behind-the-scenes activities at JHSGW, my primary responsibilities involved the “processing”, or preparing for accessibility to researchers, of several archival collections. Although I’ve benefitted from some relevant coursework and contributed to a manuscript conservation project in the past, my previous experience with the (I think) fascinating business of arranging and describing archival collections was mostly limited to hypotheticals. This internship offered more active participation, with much of my summer devoted to scanning and cataloging photographs comprising the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation collection; arranging and rehousing the Tifereth Israel collection; and arranging, cataloging, rehousing, and drafting both a finding aid and an Object of the Month entry for the Robert Rosenfeld Collection.

Shelly Buring is a second-year Master’s student at the George Washington University, where she studies museum collections management and history.

Want to intern? 0 Comment(s)

Want to gain some valuable experience while learning about D.C.-area Jewish history and contributing to a small organization?

JHSGW is looking for some interns for this fall. Read about the experiences of our former interns.

Interns work in a variety of activities, including (but not limited to):

1. Archives/collections management
2. Research
3. Education/Programs
4. Outreach/Marketing/Membership
5. Publications
6. Website/Exhibitions

The internship is unpaid. Number of hours per week is flexible; schedule will be during normal business hours (9-5 Monday-Thursday).

Learn more and apply here.

Preserving Community Heritage 0 Comment(s)

Today our intern, Samantha, and I visited the U Street offices of the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. We were there to pick up a check for a D.C. Community Heritage Project grant! Here I am with the Humanities Council Executive Director Joy Ford Austin.

Thanks to HCWDC and the MARPAT Foundation for giving us grants to create four exhibition panels in our historic synagogue and a panel outside. When you come to the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum later this year, you'll see panels with images and text about the birth of Adas Israel, the building's architecture, the 1876 dedication service, President Grant's visit to the dedication, and neighborhood life in the early-to-mid 1900s. We're also creating a short video about the synagogue's history.

This project is the first phase of implementing an exhibition plan we created in 2009, with funding from HCWDC and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The entire exhibition -- to be completed after the synagogue is moved -- will tell the story of the synagogue building, its early congregants, and by extension the Judiciary Square neighborhood.

We're honored to be among the neighborhood and local history associations awarded grants from HCWDC this year. Be on the lookout for HCWDC's annual symposium on the Community Heritage Project, tentatively scheduled for December 8.

Calling All Interns! 0 Comment(s)

JHSGW is looking for some good interns for this summer.

Read about other interns' experiences.

Interns work in a variety of activities, including (but not limited to):

1. Archives/collections management
2. Research
3. Education/Programs
4. Outreach/Marketing/Membership
5. Publications
6. Website/Exhibitions

More information here!