Even though this is a virtual internship with the potential to be isolating, the Cultural Rescue Initiative has worked to build connections. We have had ongoing phone meetings as part of the larger group and as the smaller group of George Mason interns focused on the Caribbean. Our smaller group often emailed and shared documents as well. Another valuable connection has been reading their intern blog posts. This communication provides insight into other aspects and geographic areas of the project. Ultimately, this helps us as virtual interns to see the larger picture and the need for this project.
In addition, this internship has sparked conversations with my colleagues at work. Today, I discovered that the science librarian I work with at UNC Charlotte helped preserve the papers of the Hiẓb al-Ba’th al-‘Arabī al-Ishtirākī Records (Ba’ath Party Records). As a student in her library science program, she contributed to the digitization project. We talked about the overlapping concerns with preserving information. Just as terrorist groups have destroyed museum objects and cultural sites in the Middle East, Saddam Hussein tried to destroy the records of his opposition. Thankfully, the need to preserve as many documents as possible was recognized and acted upon. I’m grateful for the dialogue this internship has created.
Connections to My Teaching
The internship has provided some challenges as well. Many of the Caribbean islands we are researching did not have any sites listed in De Gruyter’s Museums of the World directory. As a result, I had to utilize the advice I give to students when conducting research and evaluating online information. Much of the information I used to find and evaluate potential museums came from Google searches. Some website came from the government and universities, but many of these were travel websites. As I result, I had to be even more careful about the information source. I chose to ask a combination of the questions from the University of Maryland Libraries. Questions 6 and 7 gained added importance because of the hurricane damage.
1. What are the qualifications of the author or group that created the site?
2. What is the purpose of the web page or site?
3. What kind of information does the web site provide?
4. Does the web site provide any contact information?
5. When was the web site last updated?
6. Is the site well maintained?
7. In your opinion, how does the web site appear overall?
In addition, I tried to find information about the museum’s mission when available. Sometimes, a museum or gallery was simply a hobby or vanity project. I think the one that will stay with me is the “bird sanctuary” and accompanying “museum” that turned out to be some birds put in the backyard by a man whose wife liked birds. Their tax status was also an important question to ask, whether they were for profit or not for profit. Many institutions fell somewhere in between the bird sanctuary and clearly qualifying museums like Trinidad’s National Museum and Art Gallery. This project has helped me to practice what I preach and reconnect with my teaching material.