This post was authored by Public History student Austin Kellar. 

Hey there, future public historians!

First off, let’s do a virtual high-five because you’ve successfully landed an internship in the captivating world of public history. But this isn’t just any run-of-the-mill internship – no siree! You’re about to embark on an adventure in the digital realm, navigating the world of research, writing, and everything in between, all from the comfort of your own home. Being an intern in public history – it sounds exciting, doesn’t it? But maybe it’s also a bit intimidating. That’s okay! I’m here to tell you it’s not unmanageable; in fact, it’s filled with untapped possibilities and opportunities for growth, if you know how to navigate it. That’s where this handy guide comes in. Below, you’ll find my top eight tips on how to not just survive, but thrive, in your public history internship. We’ll cover everything from the adrenaline rush of research, to juggling multiple projects, to the art of virtual networking. So strap in, take notes, and get ready to rock this virtual gig!

1. Unleash Your Inner Sherlock Holmes

Now, let’s talk about the heart of your public history internship: research. It’s the cornerstone of your work and believe me, it’s way more thrilling than it sounds. Imagine yourself as a history detective, where every document is a clue, and every archival record a potential lead. You’re not just scrolling through pages of text; you’re on a quest for knowledge, piecing together fragments of the past to make sense of the bigger picture. One minute you could be deciphering an old handwritten letter from a century ago, the next you’re examining a map that was used during a significant period in history. So, embrace the uncertainty, the anticipation, the excitement. This isn’t just research; it’s an adventure. You’re not just an intern; you’re a time-traveling detective. Prepare to explore, to question, to learn. This is your chance to contribute to the narrative of history, one research question at a time. Happy sleuthing!

2. Sharpen Your Pen (or Keyboard)

If research is the beating heart of your internship, then writing is the lifeblood that pumps through it. Writing is an integral part of bringing your research to life, and trust me, it’s going to take more than a basic grasp of grammar and vocabulary. While every piece of writing serves a unique purpose, they all have a common goal: to effectively communicate the stories you uncover in your research to the public. Your writing is the bridge between dusty archives and the real world. But it’s not just about regurgitating facts on paper (or screens, in our case). The trick here is to make history come alive, to turn old facts and figures into engaging narratives that captivate your readers. You’ll need to write in a way that’s both informative and interesting. Blog posts, social media content, reports, summaries – each of these requires a different writing style. If you’re writing a blog post, use a conversational tone, and don’t shy away from injecting a bit of humor or personal anecdotes. On the other hand, reports might require a more formal, structured style. In either case, always keep your audience in mind. What do they want to know? What would keep them engaged? And don’t forget – writing is a skill, and like any skill, it gets better with practice. So, write often, seek feedback, and continuously strive to improve. Writing in the realm of public history isn’t just about creating text – it’s about creating connections, sparking interest, and contributing to the dialogue of our shared past. So, ready your pens (or flex those keyboard-typing fingers) and let your words weave the tapestry of history!

3. Go with the Flow

As an intern, your workspace is as mobile as your laptop. This flexibility can be a fantastic perk, giving you the freedom to work wherever you’re most comfortable, whether that’s a traditional desk, a sunny park, or even a cozy blanket fort. But remember, with great flexibility comes great responsibility. To thrive in this environment, you’ll need discipline and a routine that keeps you motivated and organized. Perhaps you start your day by reviewing your tasks over a steaming cup of coffee, or you take a mid-afternoon walk to clear your mind. Experiment and find what works best for you in maintaining productivity and a healthy work-life balance.

4. Be a Curious Cat

Remember, curiosity might have killed the cat, but it definitely makes a more successful intern. Don’t let the digital interface intimidate you from asking questions. If you’re confused about a task, ask. If you’re stuck in a research rabbit hole, ask. It’s better to clarify now than to get lost later. Plus, asking questions shows your engagement and eagerness to learn. As a bonus, it also helps build your relationship with your supervisors – showing them you’re invested, proactive, and not afraid to seek guidance.

5. The Art of Virtual Schmoozing

Even in the virtual world, networking is crucial. It’s more than just exchanging LinkedIn profiles – it’s about forming connections and building relationships. Don’t be shy about sending a thoughtful message to professionals in your field; a simple introduction or a comment on their recent work can open up engaging conversations. Remember, these connections might lead to friendships, mentorships, collaborations, or even future job opportunities. So, put yourself out there because your network is a reflection of your professional identity.

6. Enjoy The Process

In the world of research, it’s crucial to remember that some days will be absolutely fantastic, while others… not so much. One day, you’ll stumble upon an invaluable piece of information within minutes, feeling like a historian-version of Indiana Jones unearthing hidden treasures. You’ll ride that wave of triumph and maybe even do a little victory dance. And trust me, these days are magical! But on other days, you’ll find yourself knee-deep in virtual documents, sifting through page after page, only to unearth a minuscule fact. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. It might feel monotonous and at times, downright frustrating. However, remember that these tiny, hard-earned nuggets of knowledge often end up being the puzzle pieces that complete your historical picture. They make the end result – your research – so much richer and more nuanced. So, try to embrace and enjoy the process, even on the tough days. Celebrate your big discoveries, learn from the challenges, and remember that every day brings you one step closer to your goals. After all, the road to discovery is paved with both triumphs and trials – and that’s what makes the journey so worth it!

7. Stay Starry-eyed

At the end of the day, remember why you’re here – your passion for history. Even on days when you’re knee-deep in county records or navigating your way through some poorly maintained GIS software, remember that love. Every document you read, every fact you uncover, you’re getting a sneak peek into the past, unraveling the mysteries of history. So, stay curious, stay passionate, and let that enthusiasm guide you. After all, you’re not just learning history; you’re helping to shape how we understand our past. And that, my friend, is an incredible adventure.

8. Give Yourself Some Credit

This one’s important, so listen up. Navigating a public history internship online isn’t always a walk in the park. You’re juggling research, writing, and deadlines, not to mention the usual tech hiccups that come with the territory of working online. You might stumble, you might even fall, and there will be days when you’ll feel overwhelmed. That’s okay. Really, it is. You’re learning, growing, and contributing in ways you may not even realize. For every challenging day, there’s a day where you’ll crack the code of a historical mystery or craft a piece of writing that makes history leap off the page. And that, my friend, is progress. So, take a moment to give yourself some credit. You’re not just an intern; you’re a researcher, a writer, a networker, a time management guru, and a virtual communication pro. You’re doing something incredible by making history accessible and engaging for the public. In the grand scheme of things, every hiccup, every struggle, and every challenge is shaping you into a stronger and more resilient professional. Remember, even the greatest historians didn’t become experts overnight. They stumbled, learned, and grew just like you are doing now. So, keep going, trust the process, and most importantly, be proud of yourself and the work you’re doing. Because you’re not just surviving this internship, you’re thriving in it in your own way. Keep that chin up and remember: you’ve got this!

Check out more stories of the exciting work of History students and alumni. Visit our website to learn more about majoring in Public History.