Amanda Mihalke ’19 Interns at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum
February 13, 2019
This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (NPM) in Washington, D.C. NPM is inside the original D.C. post office and features exhibits related to philately and postal history through displays of mail, letters, and stamps. The National Postal Museum has six million total artifacts, the second largest collection of any Smithsonian museum!
While I was there, one of the main exhibitions was about Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury. The exhibit showcased his letters and detailed his impact on the postal system, which was originally under the Treasury Department. This exhibit even featured the original dueling pistols used by Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804.
I worked in the Department of Education and Visitor Services as an assistant to the School Programs Coordinator. I was one of three interns in our department, and each one of us worked on our own separate project for the summer. In my ten weeks there, I developed two new school programs for Pre-K and Kindergarten aged students which were introduced in the fall. I adapted an existing program model and integrated new themes, tours, and activities. One of my other responsibilities was to help the department prepare for other public programs and events. This included a workshop for teachers held in collaboration with Smithsonian Gardens as well as a weekend-long family festival in August.
In a typical day, I would arrive at the museum and set up for the school group that was coming in. NPM is one of the only Smithsonian museums that has staff-facilitated school programs, and I loved working with new school groups each week. I helped my supervisor guide the groups through the museum and also co-facilitated the classroom activity. I even had the opportunity to lead a session myself during my time there. After this, I would usually work on developing my program before enjoying lunch with staff members from other departments. In the afternoon, I would typically staff the welcome desk at the museum. This responsibility was connected to the Visitor Services part of the department and allowed me to talk with visitors about the museum. Other days, I would lead visitors through a gallery where we demonstrated the old process of printing stamps using a printing press from the late nineteenth century.
In addition to my time at the NPM, I also spent a lot of time exploring D.C. My supervisor gave me one day each week to explore the city and see other museums. This gave me the opportunity to learn about the different educational programs in each museum and enjoy my time in D.C. My favorite museums were the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Renwick Gallery. I also attended a few larger Smithsonian events, such as the annual staff picnic on the National Mall and a panel presentation about provenance. One of my favorite parts about my internship was meeting so many visitors and talking about the museum with them. This experience taught me a lot about working in museums, and I now hope to continue in this field.
For more information on Smithsonian summer internships, visit https://www.smithsonianofi.com/internship-opportunities/. Many applications are due in March, so there is still plenty of time to apply!