Helping our your local non-profit museum

Iris with a pie she baked for the Museum as part of a summer fundraiser.

Iris Parker Pavitt ’15, Programs and Research intern, Co-Curator

Major: History,

Nexus: Nexus Non-Profit Organizations

Awards: Almara Grant

Internship Sponsor: The Orcas Island Historical Society and Museum

The mission of the Orcas Historical Society and Museum is to preserve and share the rich historical heritage of Orcas Island. Through exhibits in the museum building comprised of homesteader cabins to education outreach in schools and more, OIHSM is dedicated to celebrating the history of this unique location and its inhabitants.

My first internship in 2013 was largely self-directed and was determined based on the needs of the museum. I researched and wrote blog posts for the website, redesigned the visitor's brochure, filed the newspaper collection, re-labeled the family/ancestry folders, and worked as a docent at the front desk.

A second internship position was funded by an Almara J-term grant for Museum Studies in the winter of 2015, during which I further developed research I had done for a course with Professor Christine DeLucia. This research became the basis for my portion of a year-round exhibit about smuggling in the San Juan Islands. I was also able to work closely with the museum's curator and learned much more about historic preservation, museum studies, and the daily operations of a small, local museum.

Her History major in action: I used my academic background in US history, my local knowledge from growing up on Orcas Island, my research skills for finding and writing about obscure subjects, eye for graphic design, and enthusiasm for sharing newfound historical knowledge with visitors and friends.

Her advice to students: Don’t forget about your local museum down the street! Larger, more well-funded institutions may be alluring, but think about the benefits of helping out a local non-profit:

  1. A chance to experience more diversity in your work. At OIHSM, I got to do a lot of different jobs because there were only a few staff members and learned how to do a lot more tasks. I really enjoyed this atmosphere instead of being confined to one department.
  2. The opportunity to design self-directed projects. My work was based on my interests and the needs of the museum. While there was some routine work that needed to be done, I as allowed to choose exciting projects that I thought would benefit the museum.
  3. Seeing the difference I made. At a smaller institution, I felt like my presence had a more visible impact. I was able to make personal connections with staff and volunteers, and my work was valued by the museum.