Deep Roots in Georgia: The Root House Museum

Sara Allen

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.

Of Teeth, Trilobites, and Tellus

Elisabeth Peulausk

It was late in the summer when I realized that in order to graduate in December, I needed to find an internship. After attempting to contact all of the museums within drivable distance of my home Ryan Roney, the curator from the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA, was kind enough to contact me and say that I could follow him around for 150 hours. The focus of the Tellus is geology, paleontology and technology, which might sound like an odd fit for a student majoring in anthropology. My goal, however, is to eventually become a curator, and this internship exposed me to many of the different facets of what a career in curation would entail. These “real world” experiences have not dissuaded me in my choice of career at all, so you know that the internship must have been a good one.

            What I appreciated most about my internship at Tellus were the varied tasks and situations to which I was exposed. For example, I was able to be involved in taking down an exhibit and setting up a new one in its place. I attended several different kinds of meetings with museum personnel, spoke with professionals in various positions in the museum sector, took a tour with staff members around the rarely seen parts of the Tellus given by the museum’s director and attended educational talks in the theater during Mercury’s transit in November. We went to visit the Booth Western Art Museum and tour their collections storage and to the Bartow History Museum and accompanying archives both of which, like Tellus, are part of parent organization Georgia Museums Incorporated. When opening a drawer or a box in collections storage you might find a megalodon tooth to touch or a radioactive geological specimen in a container marked with a chili pepper to not touch. On any given day you might have an impromptu presentation on photographic techniques from one of the world’s foremost photographers of mineralogical specimens or take pictures of staff members during their comical attempt to dress a mannequin of one of the Wright brothers after his suit was dry cleaned.

Although most days are filled with opportunities to move around and experience new things, there are tasks that have to be completed that can be repetitive and sedentary and these come in the form of computer work. The program used by the Tellus, as well as many other museums, is called PastPerfect and every specimen in the collection has an entry. In order to make each piece in the collection searchable, each entry has to be correct and there has to be standardization regarding what information goes into which field. These tasks were a relatively small part of my activities at the Tellus, however, and it did allow me to learn how to use a collections management program – an essential skill for anyone wanting to pursue museum work.

Aside from the myriad of smaller duties in which I was involved, the main ongoing curatorial project is that of a collections review. Simply put, it is the process of going through the entire collection, which is made up of thousands of objects, and making sure that things are where they are supposed to be and can easily be found. Updates in nomenclature and location are made in PastPerfect, and some objects might be deaccessioned (removed from the collection) or moved to a special collection for use by those interested in doing research. Pulling objects out of storage is always an adventure, as you have no idea what they will look like until you locate them. Many of them are pretty cool! I never thought that I would have a favorite mineral, but the aesthetic properties and greenish-blue hue of dioptase is very pleasing.

            For anyone wanting to pursue work in a museum I would highly recommend an internship at the Tellus. It is a beautiful facility filled with delightful people who are very willing to help you learn the ins and outs of museum work. It was often said to me that, when looking for a job, there is no substitute for experience.

Grounded in History: Museum of History and Holocaust Education

Rebecca Ruggles

For my last fall semester at KSU, I interned at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education right here at the university. I worked with their curator Adina Langer researching and helping with upcoming projects for the museum. There I learned how much effort went into each exhibit that was on display within the museum.  Working at the museum proved to be a very fast paced and on the go environment especially when October rolled around, as that was when field trips from school would be scheduled to visit for tours. There were quite a few tours going on every week and the museum staff would often be out of the office visiting school with traveling trunks or mobile exhibits.

 I also helped with giving tours, but as a support role. I aided the docent giving the tour and assisting children with their work. I also transcribed an interview that was part of the ongoing project at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education called the Legacy Series Oral History Program. I was also working on setting up exhibits by researching information, helping create panels, and setting up display cases which .  I also tried to participate in many of the events they had going on such as their docent training, where they trained volunteers to be docents, and home school day, where children who are home schooled are visiting.

This was an amazing experience that I would recommend for others to do if they have the opportunity. I felt that working at the museum helped hone my research skills and let me see how I could potentially apply them in a workplace. I also learned a lot about the dynamics of a work environment for a museum and what it takes to be successful. Everyone I worked with was very nice and very knowledgeable in their work. If you decide to work here do try to interact with everyone, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and participate in events!

A Sweet Tooth for Dental Anthropology

Ashleigh Freeman

For my last semester, I chose to do a practicum with Dr. Gooding. I was lucky enough to get a practicum that was aligned with research I had done previously in an osteology field school in Greece and that I found interesting. My overall goal was to create a collection of teeth that can be used to teach various classes in the department. Also, I wanted to create a couple of extra sets for Dr. Smith to take with her to Greece. For classes like the Human Skeleton and Lab in Physical Anthropology, having hands-on access to teeth can help students gain a deeper understanding of the importance of teeth.

I worked throughout the semester, learning as much as I could about human dentition through books and articles. I then used that knowledge to create collections of wear patterns in each type of teeth. I created displays of show teeth (which is the perfect example of that tooth) and funky teeth (which contained caries, fillings, and grills). Writing the final paper at the end of the project shows how much you learn over the semester, conferring a sense of expertise in that area of anthropology. After sorting through approximately 1,700 teeth, I had all the sets ready, so I built little displays for the classroom. I hope my practicum can help someone down the road feel more confident when they learn about teeth!

Tellus Science Museum, Cartersville, GA

Alex Besemer

During my last summer at KSU, I spent seven weeks working as a Curatorial Intern at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. I chose to do my internship there in part because I have always dreamed of working in a museum. Although the exhibits at the Tellus mostly focus on geology, mineralogy, paleontology, and transportation, and not necessarily anthropology, I understood the value of gaining general curatorial experience.

I spent many days at the Tellus working with the study collection, which was created to allow students and professors the opportunity to learn about objects up close. One of my projects required a review of objects to be deaccessioned, or removed from the study collection. I was the perfect fit for this project because my anthropology training provided a unique perspective compared to the other museum employees. In order to come to deaccessioning decisions, I performed lots of research on the objects including a general overview of geology and mineralogy. With my newly acquired knowledge, I prepared reports on what type of material I believed would make a good fit for the collection and why.

Through my internship, I was able to learn about many different aspects of working in a museum that I would have otherwise not been able to experience. I learned how to properly care for the collections in a way that ensured their preservation for the future. I had the opportunity to work with many different people who make the museum an interesting an engaging place to learn. I performed research on a subject which I knew very little about and gained a greater appreciation for the collection. Most importantly, thanks to my time at the Tellus and KSU’s field and lab archaeology courses I can now say that I have been involved in every step that an artifact takes as it goes from field to a museum. I’ve pulled an object from the ground, analyzed it in the lab, learned the process by which a museum may acquire the item, entered that item into the museum’s database, and learned how to properly preserve and display that item.