Ball State Senior Sophia Hoffert is researching the history of notable Delaware County women this fall semester under the supervision of Melissa Gentry, Map Collections Supervisor at Ball State University.
The Notable Women of Delaware County Project began in 2018 and is a combined effort between Ball State University Libraries, the Muncie Public Library, the Delaware County Historical Society, and Minnetrista to preserve local women’s history. The project is housed entirely online and updated regularly. In addition, other stories about the women are posted on Instagram under @themuncienotables.
For this project, Hoffert is also collaborating with Dr. Jennifer DeSilva, Assistant Chairperson of the Department of History, and her students enrolled in a history methodology course. Dr. DeSilva’s students are researching and creating documentaries about six notable Muncie women. Hoffert will then curate these documentaries into an online exhibition which will be free and available to the public.
This part-time paid internship will allow Hoffert to hone her historical research skills and present the findings to the public in an interesting and engaging way through exhibits and interactive objects, which is the heart of public history. In addition to creating this exhibition, Hoffert will also help to run the social media, develop documentaries about notable women, and create educational materials for use in Delaware County elementary schools.
Sophia Hoffert is a senior double majoring in Spanish and Public History with a minor in Creative Writing. She is also a member of the Honors College. In the future, she hopes to create TV series like The Chosen that combine artistic excellence and historical research with faith-based storytelling.
Featured below is an interview with Sophia Hoffert where she discusses her internship experience, how she came to be a public history major, and what valuable skills she has gained from working on this project.
How did you decide you wanted to pursue a degree in Public History?
I have always been drawn to storytelling. I originally started out as a Political Science major, but that all changed in a Sophomore level research methods class. Our professor was telling us an amazing story about how World War I began and all the drama that went into it. For the fifteen minutes he spent telling the story, I was hooked. He ended the story with the words “and that is NOT what we do in Political Science. That is what our friends at the History Department do.” I knew then that I had to change my major. I ended up in Public History specifically because I am interested in going into the film industry as a researcher and creative rather than into traditional academia. Public History allows for more creativity within the application of history and that appealed to me.
Why were you interested in this specific internship?
In my HIST 200 (Intro to Research Methods) class, my partner Claire Enk and I created a story-map about prostitution and women’s history in Muncie. The results of our research were fascinating (who knew Muncie had a booming red light district?) and I wanted to continue in that same line of study. Claire and I presented our research at the Student History Conference in February which is where I met Melissa Gentry, the director of the Notable Women of Delaware County Project. The opportunity to continue to research local women’s history and combine that with creative projects, like historical paper dolls and website curation, drew me to this internship. I also knew that I wanted to do something that was based in Muncie for financial reasons, so this internship was the perfect fit.
What does a typical day at your internship look like?
It varies! My work is entirely digital because most of the community partners for the Notable Women project are not open to the public due to COVID-19. My work is also mainly project based, so I’ll spend a couple of hours every day working on research and outlines for the digital exhibition I am curating in collaboration with Dr. DeSilva’s HIST 200 class and then a couple of hours on the historical paper doll project for Muncie second graders. Normally there would be more events to plan and attend in person, but COVID-19 has led us to adapt and change.
What are the most valuable skills you have gained from your internship?
Because of the internship being entirely digital, I have gained a lot of software skills over the past couple of weeks. I’ve started using Procreate to make paper dolls, I’ve learned how to use Omeka, which is an online content management system, and have even delved into Photoshop and Premiere Pro. I definitely still have a lot to learn, but I’ve been grateful for all the practical technology skills I’ve been learning as a result of this internship. I’ve even made a short documentary (inspired by Ken Burns!), which was never something I thought I would have the opportunity to do.
What is the most fulfilling part of your internship?
The most fulfilling part of my internship has been learning all of the different things that I can do with my public history major. I never thought that design, filmmaking, or digital art were in any way remotely related to what I am studying, but it’s been a pleasant surprise to find out I am completely wrong. I also have a minor in creative writing and am very interested in pursuing a career as a screenwriter or author in the future. Having a Public History major gives me a different and valuable perspective that I can then bring to my career as an artist. The major has given me research skills and helped me learn how to construct a narrative. It’s been fulfilling to realize that I can combine many different interests and fields into one future career.
The digital exhibition, Town on Fire, is an exploration of Muncie history from the perspectives of six different historical women and will be available to the public on December 11, 2020.
If you would like to nominate a local woman, living or dead, for the Notable Women project, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.