It’s been far too long since we interviewed a Bethel History student or recent alum who has completed an internship! So let’s hear from Gretchen Luhmann ’14, who spent part of her last semester at Bethel working at Eidem Homestead, a living history site in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
First things first: why did you pick a History major? Did you come to Bethel knowing you wanted to pursue that course of study?
Coming to Bethel I knew History would be my major. Whether or not I would pair it with another major or minor, I knew History would be my focus because it had been a favorite topic of mine since childhood. I wasn’t really sure what I would end up doing with it, but the thought of working in a museum where I could tell stories of the past and actually “do” history thrilled me.
How did you become a spring intern with Eidem Homestead? Were you looking to work there in particular?
I was looking for internships with a museum or archive to establish connections in the area and to learn how to professionally care for objects and documents, but also to figure out which area of museum or archival work I was most interested in. I had experience working in the Archives of the Baptist General Conference and Bethel University, but thought looking into other areas was wise before continuing on with graduate school for a master’s in Library and Information Science.
Eidem Homestead is a living history museum that Dr. Gehrz mentioned to me early in the fall of 2013, but found again when researching smaller museums and libraries in the area where I was hoping to find internship opportunities.
For those who haven’t been there before, describe Eidem Homestead.
Eidem Homestead is a living history museum in Brooklyn Park. John and Lectty Eidem moved onto that farm in 1894 where they planted potatoes and raised sheep, like most farmers in the area. For visitors, you experience what life in rural Minnesota would have been like between 1890 and 1910. You can tour the house and barn, check out the farm animals in the spring and summer, experience the daily work that each member of the family contributed to the farm, and take part in the many events throughout the year geared to all ages.
What kind of work did you have the chance to do as a museum intern?
At the beginning of my internship in the spring of 2014, when the farm was quiet, most of my time was spent researching in order to write descriptions for future display signs around the farm. I researched the 1890-1910 period, the Brooklyn Park area, rural life, immigration, and also various objects around the house and barn to get an understanding of their importance and function. The interpretive signs enable visitors to read and learn about basic aspects of life on the farm at that period, but also set the stage for what happened throughout the United States and what concerns people had at that period. The closer it got to the spring and summer events, the more my work transitioned to programming. I worked on bringing together ideas and preparing the farm for the opening events.
What was most exciting or enjoyable about it? What was challenging?
I enjoyed working at Eidem, which has a smaller staff, because that meant that I would have a number of experiences rather than working in one specific department. With that, I was able to research, but also get the house ready for visitors by pulling out knick knacks and rearranging furniture, and went through boxes and trunks of various things creating an inventory. While I loved the various jobs I was thrown into, coming up with ideas and planning accordingly for events was difficult. I found myself wishing that I had experienced an event as a visitor myself prior to the internship to get a feel of the crowd and how the events logistically worked. With that said, Eve Burlingame, the Eidem Farm Coordinator, was a great sounding board for my suggestions and helped make them a reality.
Do you see yourself doing similar work as a career? Has the internship experience influenced your thinking about work and education in the coming years?
Parts of the internship I am working towards for a career. I loved the research aspect and going through old documents and boxes. Yet at the same time, I do not necessarily see myself at a living history museum. The internship did impress upon me how much I love research and working on the more academic side of history. As of now, I am planning on going back to school to get a master’s in Library and Information Science to become an archivist.
What advice would you have for our majors who are interested in seeking internship experiences?
Definitely do it! Even if you think it may not be an area you are completely interested in, it helps with networking and honing in on what it is that does interest you. For me, I needed that experience to figure out that I enjoyed the behind the scenes research process more than being in front teaching others about that history. Also, don’t only look into museums that already have established internships. I found multiple smaller museums and county historical societies that were willing to work with me, so make sure to check out all your prospects – it never hurts to ask!
If, like Gretchen, you’re interested in receiving HIS credit for your internship, get in touch with department chair Chris Gehrz. The for-credit option simply requires that you work a certain number of hours (varies by number of credits), that you arrange a supervisor on site and back at Bethel, and that you complete some reading and writing to help you reflect on your experience.