Schuyler Marquez '11 Preserves Local History at Wistariahurst

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 14:46

A California native, Schuyler Marquez '11 recalled driving through the neighboring city of Holyoke on her way to first-year orientation at Mount Holyoke three years ago.

"At first I could not understand the area or the history of this old industrial city," said Marquez.

An anthropology major and music minor, Marquez just began her second year as an intern at the Wistariahurst Museum, located less than ten minutes from campus in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Working at the museum, she said, has not only "fostered an appreciation for the area," but also helped her see "how history affects today."

The Wistariahurst Museum was once the home of William Skinner, a wealthy silk manufacturer living in Holyoke in the mid-nineteenth century. The Skinner family continued to occupy the residence until 1959, when the family donated the building to the city of Holyoke to be used for educational purposes. The elegant house museum now offers guided tours that showcase the property's impressive architecture, woodwork, textiles, and gardens. The museum's permanent and rotating exhibits feature paintings, textiles, and letters dating back to the nineteenth century.

As an intern, Marquez performs a variety of creative and curatorial tasks, including working with primary documents and archives, designing flyers and pamphlets, staffing events, and brainstorming new programming that will increase the number of visitors to the museum. She recently helped museum staff set up an exhibit that focuses on the servants who lived in the home when it belonged to the Skinner family. She said she was particularly interested in this project because it "focused on people who are not generally featured in historic accounts."

"The work expands my mind," she said.

Marquez found out about the position through the College in the fall of 2009 and is able to be paid through the Federal Work-Study Program.

"I applied because I was interested in seeing what it would be like to work in a museum, as well as getting to know the local history and community," she said.

At the time, Marquez added, "Museum work had been a major career interest." Now a senior, she is applying to Ph.D. programs in anthropology with the hope of becoming a college professor. Her current academic and professional interests focus on the media and how media shapes ideas, particularly religious ideas.

Although her professional goals have shifted away from curatorial work, Marquez remains positive the skills she gained through her internship will help her career in the long run. In addition to gaining practical experience in a profession that interests her, she sees many other benefits to being able to intern locally.

"I have really gotten to know the people who work there," she said. "My work is valued, I have a voice, and they respect my ideas."

Marquez recommends that other MHC students pursue local internships that can be completed during the academic year.

"Organizations in the area often look to Mount Holyoke students for help because they're thoughtful and put a tremendous amount of effort into even the smallest tasks," she said.