Preparing for graduate school and the competitive field of museum curatorship means that Rachel needed to dive in head-first on activities and internships, in order to learn as much as she possibly can.
As a student Ambassador for the College, Rachel works with the Walter Center for Career Achievement and frequently shares her story with prospective students and their families, introducing them to the vast range of studies and activities ongoing in the College.
“What I love most about being an Ambassador is remembering being in those high school juniors and seniors’ shoes – it’s kind of rocky footing,” Rachel said. “You don’t really know what you want to do yet. I’m able to help some students and tell them, ‘It’s all going to be okay, you’re going to figure this out while you have great people here with you to support you doing that. You won’t have to do this on your own!’”
When she isn’t helping prospective students, Rachel is busy with internships with direct links to the curatorial career she wants.
Interning at the Monroe County History Center gave her an intro to curatorship and even led her to another internship opportunity. At the Center, Rachel worked on an exhibit about Title IX during the summer, and a peer told her about a chance to work with artifacts excavated from the Angel Mounds in Evansville, Indiana. At the end of the summer, one of her advisors sent an email inviting students to apply for that same internship and Rachel applied the same day.
That fall, she began her internship at the IU Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and began working through the collections of Glenn A. Black, a Hoosier archaeologist and the first to excavate the world-famous Angel Mounds after the land was bought and protected by the Indiana Historical Society. Many of the artifacts Black and his crew collected weren’t systematically examined and sorted until now, and museum professionals and interns like Rachel are leading the charge.
“What the museum is doing,” explained Rachel, “is rehousing artifacts. They’re moving them from the original cardboard boxes and brown paper bags from 80-plus years ago and putting them into safe, plastic, museum-grade boxes and bags.” Rachel is working on lithics, which covers a wide category of chipped stone artifacts.
Rachel will open the box or bag, empty it, weigh and sort the contents, and then put the items into safer storage. In a given day, she’ll find ground stone, chip stone, bone, ceramics, fossils, and ochre.
“As someone who hasn’t taken any archaeology classes, being able to work in a lab setting, looking for these kinds of materials, understanding their significance at this thousands-of-years-old site – it’s humbling as much as it is enlightening,” she said.
As Rachel begins looking at graduate schools, she’ll have plenty of hands-on experience in exhibit creation and materials-handling to give her confidence as she becomes a museum professional.