Griffin Green is a third-year student at Ball State majoring in Public History and Philosophy. Griffin is also the president of BSU College Democrats and sits on the Deans Student Advisory Council for the College of Fine Arts. For his Public History internship, Griffin opted to work as a collections intern over the summer of 2021 for the David Owsley Museum of Art, surveying and cataloging their paper archives when not involved in label research.
How did you decide you wanted to pursue a degree in Public History?
For me, I made the decision to go into Public History because I felt the idea of being in a classroom straight out of college seemed really constricting: I would only be regurgitating what I had learned in college to students without ever getting to “work” in history as a field. That’s why Public history seemed like a perfect fit for me—the education part is still there, but you interact with the public as a whole while also being involved in work at a larger array of institutions, whether it be museums or national parks.
What drew you to your specific internship?
Being a history buff, I was intrigued that BSU had its very own American-Alliance-of-Museums accredited museum right on campus, and I figured it would be an interesting challenge to work in an art museum specifically despite not having an artistic background. Therefore, I was thrilled that I was accepted to work in what’s known as collections, where everyday I’m able to research and work in their archives by uncovering the history of certain artworks while also developing a finding aid for the entirety of their paper collection.
What’s your work like on an average day?
Typically much of my day is spent cataloging different boxes of archive material, where I document everything from past exhibitions to financial records. My job is to take all of that information and compile it into single document that will allow any staff member or researcher to quickly find the location paper documents pertaining to whatever it is that someone is researching. Whether its expenditures from fiscal year 1985 or a past exhibition on charcoal drawings, I work to make sure that information on those items can be found.
What skills have you taken away from your internship?
While I’ve obviously learned the skills you would expect to learn from archiving (data entry, Excel proficiency, etc.) I have also managed to learn some skills that I was never expecting. For example, I’ve learned how to properly wrap and store artwork that needed to be shipped out, I’ve learned how many lumens worth of light different artworks can handle before degrading, and I’ve learned a bit about how public presentations are conducted by being a helping hand to staff members.
What leaves you feeling most accomplished about your internship?
I feel most accomplished knowing that I am doing something genuinely worthwhile for the museum. Never before have they had someone properly sit down and sift through their paper collections in order to organize and document them, and so I feel fulfilled knowing that I’m doing something that a student employee hasn’t done before, rather than just joining an existing project or piggybacking off of something else that’s already been developed.