Kenny Deetz is a Public History student who is currently working on a video project for his internship. Even though his internship is just beginning, Deetz has found the experience to be very rewarding and valuable, especially in regards to communication between others. Through the internship’s video project, Deetz hopes to educate younger generations about important historical events, and he wishes to help future Public History interns by providing advice such as what is listed below.
Three Things to Know Immediately for a More Independent Collaboration Project
Let’s say you land an internship with the help of your Public History program or through your own initiative alone. However, this is not an internship at a specific institutional organ of a college or working in a long-established position/profession at a historical organization, and especially at a museum. This is an internship that is largely involved with using your own tools, as well as a collaborative effort with an organization or a group of people to complete a project, such as an educational video for viewing by kids in grade school.
This video project is exactly what I am doing for my internship, and it will be about Indiana during the War of 1812. I have to use my own tools, as well as getting help from the Society of the War of 1812 in Indiana and other historical organizations, to achieve the end-goal of publishing an engaging educational video for students. Of course, I also am largely still getting advice from Dr. Ronald Morris, a faculty member of the History Department at BSU, but this type of internship is much more independent than a more traditional job.
Despite only being a couple of weeks into my internship, I have already learned some very important lessons when it comes to doing this more particular type of internship. What do you do when you are largely handling the logistics while learning the know-hows of coordinating with different people/groups? This is what I hope to help with if you are or want to be in the same boat as I am. These are the three things I have already picked up on during my internship for the Spring of 2023:
1. Learn When and How to Communicate! And Not Just Being Prompt with Your Messages.
When you read this first piece of advice and think, “Duh,” I can promise you there is more to this than just being quick to respond and be prompt when it comes to updating the people you are working with on your progress. Communication is crucial for any job, but it is especially important for a more independent type of historical project where you don’t have a supervisor that is constantly there in person, that can quickly correct any mistake you make when it comes to every facet of your project. YOU are the person responsible for knowing what the next step is for your project, and if you don’t know, ask! Despite this being a more non-traditional type of internship, you are still an intern, and there are people that know you will still need help and will gladly offer it. Any concern/worry you might have will only be natural since you are learning and want to do well on your first internship. Of course, it is also natural for many people to not want to be seen as an annoyance by asking so many questions, but I promise you that no reasonable person is going to fault you for wanting to be absolutely sure about something. This also extends to the people you are working with, as they want you to succeed and will gladly help to make sure you have all the tools and knowledge you need to produce excellent content.
When it comes to communication, be sure you know HOW to communicate with different types of people. I am twenty-six years old, so I am more than comfortable with texting people, and as a student using email for communication. People from different generations, however, might have their own preferred way of communication either through phone calls or meeting in-person frequently rather than through digital means. This isn’t to say that you should assume some people are just technologically illiterate, and I am most definitely not trying to say that, because usually that is not the case. However, be prepared to communicate in ways that you might not be used to and to leave less room for miscommunication or misunderstandings. The whole point of this type of historical work is collaboration, and you don’t want to leave anyone in the dark because you are not used to a certain way of communicating. So remember, learn how to communicate and be sure to ask questions and get all the advice you need!
2. Know That Your Work Can Potentially Impact Not Just Your Target Audience, but Outside Groups as Well.
A lot of the materials that will be used will at least have you either help create or write. For example, I have to write a script detailing what will be narrated as well as writing the dialogue for the actors that will take part in the video project. For a topic such as the American conflict against the various Native American tribes in early U.S. history, it is no secret that such historical topics have led to controversy and even outright ire. When you are writing about any historical topic that has a good bit of sensitivity surrounding it, you have to be careful not to have your writing unintentionally mislead people and make sure you get things right. You are not just making educational content for a classroom to watch, but you are also indirectly influencing a newer generation of Americans and their idea of their history. Of course, I am not trying to insinuate that you should try to instill your own ideas on people through your content, but I am trying to convey the importance that you should be aware of WHAT is going to be in your project that is meant for public viewing.
While to some people this might seem like a no-brainer, it is especially important to convey in this more independent style of internship since you are usually the one responsible for producing the material and its contents. Of course you will have people, especially established historians, to look over your work, but this is still a good exercise and taking time to understand the impact of your work is crucial. When you are finished with an internship, you will be largely responsible for what is produced in this line of work, and there will likely be no such supervisor to make sure what you write can be insensitive/misleading. Of course as a historian, facts always come before any emotional response. But, at the same time, you can still show nuance and empathy while sticking to historical truth. The increasing visibility of the histories of marginalized groups today is why I think this point is very important to convey if you are going to work in this style of historical interpretation.
3. There is no shame in admitting that you need more time for tasks
In an era where mental health is taken more seriously and where you may be completely new to any type of work involved in an internship, it is important to know when you might need more time. Of course, this style of internship demands a very strict adherence to a schedule since so much has to go into such a project, and it is ill-advised to detract from that too much. However, in situations such as mine, you are most likely still a student and also have other obligations outside of your internship that sometimes might demand more of your attention than every single task involved in your project. Either through family emergencies or just demanding assignments from your classes/exams, sometimes it might just be too much to handle all at once. Reach out to your supervisor for your internship and let them know what is going on, and I can assure you they will be willing to adjust your tasks so it won’t be overbearing. Of course, do your best to complete as much as you can when it comes to tasks involving your internship, but you can adjust your schedule to make up for the lost time. I can assure you it won’t be the end of the world.
On a more personal note, I am a person that has a lot of responsibilities outside of anything academic, whether they be with classes or my current internship. As of writing this, I am currently adding in notes about the cinematography that will be needed for the shots involving live reenactors. I also have to look up images that will be used in the final video since we have to make sure we can use photos and respect copyright laws. This is no easy task in and of itself since you have to use your imagination to see what images will go well with the other materials you will use for the video well in advance for when you actually have to edit everything together. I admitted to someone I am working with that this will likely not be tenable (before our next meeting) due to other life circumstances, and it was no big deal, it will just take a little bit longer to finish. Of course I don’t plan on taking my sweet time, but it is important to know your limits so you don’t get burnt out or too stressed. Again I want to reiterate that it is still important to stick to a schedule in this type of internship, but if something comes up, take care of that first and just make up for it as soon as possible. There is no reason to add excessive worry to an already stressful life as a student!