Blog

19 June 2020

How does a National Historic Site, built in 1759, go virtual?


Written by: Nohemi Colin


Turn on laptop. Login. Click to Join Meeting.

This year has definitely served as an important time to slow down, reflect, and find ways to make our situations better; that’s exactly what my virtual internship has taught me so far.

I just finished my first two weeks interning at the Longfellow House Washington's Headquarters located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Coming into this experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect and if it was actually possible to successfully complete my project while being about 1,000 miles away from my team. Early on, we had to consider both the time change when it came to scheduling meetings and the learning curve when using different meeting platforms. In one of our first meetings, our site manager went over expectations and realities of working from home, such as remembering to taking breaks, creating daily goals and switching focus when needed. This was an important first step to remind us that everyone is in the same boat as we are transitioning into working online. We also heard from the Public Health Department about future timelines and what to expect as places started opening to the public. Both conversations set the stage for what my virtual internship would look like and quickly got us to thinking about how we could all make the most of this situation.

After the first few meetings, we discussed the important task team members of the national historic site have on educating the public both in person and virtually. Because the team only knows the history of the house from what has been written and documented, through journal entries and deeds, we discussed having the ability to now shed light on the marginalized members of the time and sharing more about specific individuals. One key point was understanding our role in retelling the stories, as well as the untold stories, which is important when educating the public of the history and all people involved in the making of our country. We also discussed ways to make the website more accessible for both hearing and visually impaired learners as we transition to educating the public virtually. Both discussions proved that there is always room for improvement and constant learning.

As for my own learning, I have spent the last week exploring old documents of the historic site and creating a rough draft outline of events following the expansion and development of the property over the last two centuries. My biggest worry was not having easy access to resources that aren’t available online, but the team has constantly reminded me that they are always there to help and send documents to me. As if that wasn’t reassuring enough, they also connected me with one of the authors of Building Old Cambridge, Charles M. Sullivan. He had spent over 20 years collecting images and helping piece together the history of Cambridge from the early settlement and development in 1630 to 2016. So far, the internship has been a great learning experience and has giving me a better understanding of the hard work done both for the public and behind the scenes.

Agency: National Park Service

Program: Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP)

Location: Longfellow House Washington's Headquarters

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