by Lee Slusher, MA Fall 2018
Over the course of the summer and early fall of 2018 I completed an internship for Monroe County Museum in Monroe, Michigan. The museum offers educational programs for scouts, elderly, and people of all ages. Monroe County Museum creates exhibits and presentations focused on Monroe Counties local history; they manage historical sites at their Territorial park and Monroe County Fairgrounds providing living history programs depicting life in Monroe County from the 1810s to the 1820s. Their collections and programs in the past traditionally focused on the region’s famous native General George Armstrong Custer. In recent years the museum has diversified their programming to educate about the unique history of Monroe County and its citizens. Their mission is to fuel and cultivate their visitors’ curiosity through the exploration of Monroe County’s rich and varied stories, joining together to unearth meaning and illuminate relevant connections between the past, present, and future.
I became involved with the museum through an interview with the director Andy Clark through the Historical Administration course, taught by Holly Hartlerode, in the spring of 2018. The goal of the interview was to speak with a working public historian in the field about their jobs, institution, and previous experiences. During a constructive conversation with Andy about the museum, I grew interested in their mission of fueling and cultivating their visitors’ curiosity in Monroe County’s rich and varied history, going beyond the figure of General Custer. Working with Dr. Rebecca Mancuso, Lee set up the Public History Internship and began work with them in May of 2018.
The museum is actively in the process of digitizing the archival and photography collection of the museum. My role focused on the digitization and preservation of the photography collection. Working in PastPerfect software, I scanned and researched the photographs to log notes regarding their significance to Monroe County’s history. The photographs and my annotations, will be used by researchers and museum staff to set up future exhibits and educational materials. Working for the Monroe County Museum was a unique opportunity to see the inside operation of a local history organization and their daily function, and to apply the critical thinking of historians to create accurate interpretations about the past and drive curiosity about the local histories of our communities.