Hannah Gaston, a student pursuing her M.A in Museum Professions, a graduate program within the College of Communications and Arts, recently completed a summer-long internship at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Gaston, a Museum Education track student, interned for the museum’s Children and Family Learning Department.
Gaston spent most of her internship in the Discovery Room, a hands-on science space designed for children between the ages of 5–12. The room serves as an interactive gateway to the wonders of the museum and a hands-on, behind-the scenes look at its science. Every major field of museum science and research, from anthropology to zoology, is represented.
“I was tasked with examining an element of the Discovery Room that could be enhanced,” Gaston said. “My project focused on the Northwest Coast Totem Pole that is displayed in the room. This massive Totem Pole is on display with a text panel identifying the artist, but no other important information. Conveniently, there were a set of empty drawers next to the pole. I decided to make sensory connections to the animals carved on the pole and put those connections into the empty drawers.”
Gaston credits the Museum Professions program for equipping her with the knowledge and skills needed for her internship. “My two core Museum Education classes helped me succeed in this internship,” she said. “In these classes, we discussed the importance of representing and working with multiple cultures and how it is imperative to incorporate native voice.”
“This project was larger than I initially anticipated, but I learned a great deal about Northwest Coast culture” Gaston shared. “I learned that the Totem Pole was carved in the museum by Richard Hunt. As Hunt is a living artist, I interviewed him about what the Totem Pole meant to him, the stories of the different animals on it and his experience carving.”
In addition to her internship, Gaston supplements her coursework with a graduate assistantship. She currently holds an assistantship for Graduate Studies within the College of Communication and the Arts, where she manages the Institute of Museum Ethics’ blog, creates engagement materials, and crafts the program’s digital newsletter, Musings.
Looking ahead, Gaston hopes to be a director of museum education where she hopes to write and develop programs, work with school groups, plan community events and train volunteers and docents.
She shared her advice for students searching for an internship. “Try to get as many different internships as possible,” she said. “Experience is valuable and the more internships you complete, the more experience you gain.”
The M.A. in Museum Professions is designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers in museums or related cultural institutions. Students in the program select one of four professional tracks, including Museum Education, Museum Registration, Museum Management, or Exhibition Development.
The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Strategic Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered.