Archive for Thursday, July 23, 2009

Interns at Watkins Community Museum dusting off bits of Lawrence’s past

Papers shed light on work of Mayor A.L. Selig, city growth

Watkins Museum employees are working hard to protect the work of former Lawrence mayor A.L. Selig.

July 23, 2009

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Watkins Community Museum of History interns, from left, Ann Benning, a Kansas University graduate student from St. Louis, Kim Schmidt, a Haskell Indian Nations University senior from Burlington, and Brittany Keegan, a KU graduate student from Olathe, catalog correspondence and personal papers belonging to A. L. Selig, a Lawrence mayor from the late 1800s, Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at the museum.

Watkins Community Museum of History interns, from left, Ann Benning, a Kansas University graduate student from St. Louis, Kim Schmidt, a Haskell Indian Nations University senior from Burlington, and Brittany Keegan, a KU graduate student from Olathe, catalog correspondence and personal papers belonging to A. L. Selig, a Lawrence mayor from the late 1800s, Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at the museum.

When you think of intern tasks, making coffee or copies might come to mind. But three interns at the Watkins Community Museum of History have been dusting — for about 100 hours each.

A.L. Selig served four terms as mayor to Lawrence in the late 1800s, and now many of his documents have come out of storage to be properly preserved. “He was an important person in the history of Lawrence, so I think it’s important to learn as much as we can about him,” intern Ann Benning said from behind a looming stack of antique texts.

The interns have cleaned each paper with a surprising device.

“I never would have thought of using a Swiffer to clean papers off. I would have expected something more high-tech or fancy, but a Swiffer works great,” intern Kim Schmidt said.

Selig was integral in forming Lawrence’s first sewer system and having Massachusetts Street paved in bricks. Most of the documents, however, do not discuss Selig’s achievements so much as his insurance company.

“I’ve had some where it starts out as a normal business letter, and at the very end it turns into a very personal, ‘Oh, this is going on in my life,’” said Schmidt, noting her surprise at the difference between Selig’s letters and today’s typical business correspondence.

Their work might be tedious, but Exhibits Coordinator Helen Krische said the interns’ experience will be beneficial in the future.

“Most museum studies students begin working in small museums. They have a need to wear many hats, to do many jobs, and this certainly will prepare them for that,” she said.

Comments

appleaday 5 years, 10 months ago

I don't think of making coffee when I think of basic tasks for interns. Interns aren't there to wait on regular staff.

blindrabbit 5 years, 10 months ago

I wish the interns well, but that place is a disaster. The museum functioned with Judy Sweets and Steve Jansen; even though there were personnel and personal problems then. Under the leadership Carla Phipps and subsequentally Mike Wildgen the place has gone to "hell in a handbag" The Watkin's family would not be proud.

mdrndgtl 5 years, 10 months ago

After their internships these young, promising curators spread their wings and travel far to bring shear boredom to the remainder of the country.

appleaday 5 years, 10 months ago

Yes, Marion, I've served as an intern. And my colleagues and I have worked with two interns recently. While I will concede that interns get to do the most tedious work (in our case, largely because they lack the appropriate credentials to do other things), I still say that making coffee is not part of the job. It sounds like something those creepy guys on Mad Men would ask.

appleaday 5 years, 10 months ago

Maybe not beneath them -- it's just that coffee isn't part of the job. My interns are with me to learn how to do research. My colleagues and I make our own coffee.

mwildgen 5 years, 10 months ago

Rabbit--you are invited to come down to the Museum and get some updated information. During the past year things have improved and a newly constituted Board is taking on the challenge of improving the Museum 1. the budget was balanced --expenditures cut to meet realistic revenues. 2. over $40000 of new grant and tax credit donations were raised. This has allowed for the hiring of the three interns in the article. They are working on an inventory of the collections and specific archival projects such as the Selig collection. The community room has been repainted and carpet replaced, new emergency lighting installed, elevator repaired, and lighting installed in the research room . Several of the bathrooms will be painted and upgraded this year. 3. There are new volunteers working on the quilt, record and three-dimensional collections 4. The Museum hosted a Smithsonian exhibit in 2008 and will host two Mid-America Arts Alliance exhibits in 2009 5. We have improved the Museum ties to the KU Musem Studies program. A student exhibit about the Underground Railroad has just been installed. 6. We have cooperated with USD 497 as a work site for training students. 7. We enjoy great support from Destination Management and the County Commission

These are some of the projects/programs that would make the Watkins Family proud. There is room for a lot more and when resources become available you will see more improvements. BTW: Carla Phipps is a local MD; Rebecca Phipps was the former director.

Bassetlover 5 years, 10 months ago

A huge HUZZAH to Mike Wildgen for rescuing the museum from ruin! The seven items listed above barely scratch the surface of the things he has accomplished during his short tenure as interim director. Thanks, Mike, for getting things back on track!

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