I was an unpaid intern at the Root House Museum. My time there started in August, while the house was still dressed for summer. The first month at the Root House, I was given a docent manual and became acquainted with everyone that worked there at the time. I was given a lot of freedom with my time spent there. The executive director allowed me to choose what I spend my time doing as an intern at the Root House. I was provided access to resources that the museum already had, and then the rest of time was independent research. The atmosphere at the museum is very easy-going; help with projects was always requested and never pressed.
I think this the benefit that comes from working with a museum that relies somewhat heavily on volunteer work- the executive director and program coordinator avoid asking too much from their unpaid workers. Although I requested not to lead museum tours, I sat in during some of them to learn more about what a docent has to do as well as the typical visitors to the Root House Museum. Most of the visitors that I saw while I was there were either retirees or school aged children.
Aside from research and giving tours, a lot of the work at the museum involves arranging furniture and prepping for events. The room exhibits change almost every month, so furniture and décor have to be carefully moved around and arranged. The museum will host events, usually as an avenue to raise more money, and this also involves arranging tables and decorations in the garden. Otherwise, if you’re on the clock you might be asked to help sweep and dust. The Root House Museum is a good place for potential interns that want quiet, self-driven work. The other draw of the Root House is that the exhibits there touch a broad amount of subjects. The museum represents history, local history, business in 1800’s, the middle class during the 1800’s, horticulture and pharmacy, race, religion and gender. There are a lot of opportunities at the Root House for deeper studies into any of these subjects and more. The Root House Museum has connections to other local historians, other museums, and other historical societies. This museum is actually a very good place for people looking to make connections with other historical museums. It’s also a good place to learn how smaller scale museums maintain their exhibits, and turn out a profit.
The drawbacks of the museum start with the fact that internships will be unpaid. People who want more direction in their work, especially people who need consistent feedback, may not find the Root House as relaxing as I did. The days spent at the Root House are very slow, and some people need an environment where they constantly have something do and this just isn’t an environment that will keep anyone on their toes. Also research projects involve dead ends and this can be potentially frustrating for some people.