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.

Learning the Lab Life

Dia Dobbs

My internship at the LabCorp Austell Patient Service Center was amazing! I got to dive into completely new experiences that will definitely be useful in my future career pursuit as a Physicians Assistant. I was grateful for the opportunity to be so hands on with the patients, specimen and understanding all aspects of what it takes to work in one of these offices. Furthermore I hope sharing my experience can help future students on deciding what internship is best for them.

One of the most valuable tools that I took away from LabCorp is understanding how to work with patients of all different backgrounds and cultures. I didn’t realize how important and necessary it would be for me to help patients with simple task, such as providing necessary identification, or informing them about the testing they were having done. Sometimes patients would come in frustrated at their employer or doctor for the test they had requested, so it was imperative that we remained calm and assured them that this would be a quick and easy process.

 Another thing that I learned to do from this internship was conduct different lab test. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to conducting them on my own but it was very cool being able to participate in the process. A few that I did quite frequently were drug screens, urinalysis, genetic molecular testing, and paternity testing. One of the coolest things that I did was the hair drug screen test where I was taught on a practice doll how to collect 200 hair strands from the patients head. I also had the pleasure of working with newborns to perform heel sticks test, which was quite exciting.

One of the most challenging parts of this internship was learning how to work the Touch system which is how all the specimen are tracked. This was something that I frequently needed assistance with, and it wasn’t uncommon for Patient Service Technicians to mess up on. Of course, I always double checked if I had questions because if specimen got lost or mixed up, then that could result in retesting, which is a hassle for the patients.

In addition to working in the lab, I also got the opportunity to ride around with the courier who picks up the labs at each office. This was interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes once your lab work leaves the lab. I was able to visit the Birmingham headquarters where the specimen are organized and tested. This facility had many departments with chemist and biologist who studied specimen in detail.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take photos in the lab due to it being a HIPPA violation; however, I did include pictures of what the office looked like and the rooms that the patients were serviced in. This internship was an incredible experience and I would most definitely recommend students to apply for this internship. I was very active at this facility and staff were extremely helpful in teaching me the in’s and out’s of the lab.

Edwards Pitman Environmental, Inc., Smyrna, GA

Jeffrey Roberts

Interning at Edwards Pitman Environmental, Inc. was an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to work and interact with archaeologists from different backgrounds and with years of experience, but I also had the pleasure of experiencing the field that I have been studying from a totally new perspective. The lessons that I learned from my time interning at Edwards Pitman were vital to my development as a student of anthropology and archaeology. Cultural resource management plays an important part of Edwards Pitman’s main mission. However, with the knowledge that I have gained from this internship, I am more confident and better equipped to become successful in whatever profession my education leads me to.

Cultural resource management includes associated lab work. The processes of cleaning, identifying, organizing and cataloging are just as vital to the overall mission as the field work is. Much of it is tedious work that requires an attention to detail and patience. A typical day in the lab may start out with washing artifacts that were collected in the field. Some days it may be a few artifacts, and other days it may be a few hundred. From there, each artifact needs to be bagged, labeled and organized in a way to make it easy to find. This step seems to take up the most time. I found the most rewarding part of the lab to be identification. Identifying artifacts, whether they be historic or prehistoric, requires investigation, research and occasionally an informed judgment call. Sometimes there is consensus on the identification of an artifact and other times there is disagreement. Each person brings unique insight and experience when attempting to identify some artifacts. On a few occasions, I was able to identify objects that other archaeologists were unable to identify. This brought to my attention the importance of a variety of viewpoints and opinions when it comes to archaeology as well as other fields in anthropology.

I spent a large amount of my time at the internship in the field, assisting field technicians find and assess archaeological sites through survey and shovel tests. Field work isn’t for everyone because much of the work associated with CRM takes place on roadsides, in deep woods and along river banks. Hazards we typically saw on a random day included snakes, spider webs in the face, impassible ravines and cliffs, and more briars and thorny vines than any person should every have to deal with in a lifetime. The work can be grueling and during much of my time in the field, I worked in temperatures above 90 degrees. That being said, my time in the field with Edwards Pitman was among the most beneficial experiences I have had since I began studying anthropology. There are some things that cannot be learned in the classroom; things that can only be learned by experiencing it firsthand and CRM is one of those things.

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.