USF's Museum Blog

Intern-connectivity: The Peabody Essex Museum

by Jordan Dresser

Jordan Dresser

Jordan Dresser

Ten years ago, I began my first internship. Back then I was an undergraduate sophomore at University of Wyoming majoring in journalism. As I started the 700 mile journey from my home in Fort Washakie, Wyo., to my destination in Lincoln, Neb., different questions flickered in my mind. What if they didn’t like me? Were my writing skills strong enough? But my biggest question was: why did they pick me?

That summer working as a reporting intern at the Lincoln Journal Star was a memorable experience. The fast paced world of journalism is difficult and stressful but rewarding. Naturally mild and quiet, I had to force myself to be outgoing and inquisitive. I left with a stack of newspaper stories featuring my byline, new friends and, most of all, valuable mentors. Years later, I find myself revisiting these life lessons as I embark on a new journey outside of journalism.

Jordan is spending Summer, 2015 as a fellow at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.

Jordan is spending Summer, 2015 as a fellow at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.

Last year, I enrolled as a graduate student studying Museum Studies at the University of San Francisco. As an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, I am driven by a passion for the Native American experience to be properly represented. This focus led me to the Peabody Essex Museum. Located in Salem, Mass., the PEM has one of the oldest Native American collections in the country.

This Kayapo headdress, Amazonia Brazil is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum.

This Kayapo headdress, Amazonia Brazil is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum.

Driven by a desire to build future museum leaders, the PEM established a Native American fellowship program. Each year, four fellows are selected to work at the museum in various departments. As a part of the program, the fellows spend our Friday mornings attending leadership seminars. Guest speakers and museum personnel conduct trainings that introduce topics such as communication skills, time management and workplace culture. Various readings and projects are assigned throughout the week. The aim of the program is to foster an environment that will help the fellows learn critical skills to become leaders in the museum world.

The sculptor Edmonia Lewis, Ojibwe, is one of the few Native American artists who can be found on Wikipedia.

The sculptor Edmonia Lewis, Ojibwe, is one of the few Native American artists who can be found on Wikipedia.

Serving as a Native American Integrated Media Fellow under the direction of Associate Director Ed Rodley, I am spending my summer working on two rich projects. The first project involves increasing the representation of Native American artists online by providing content that can be uploaded onto Wikipedia. The second project involves drafting a proposal for a digital map that highlights how difficult it is to accurately pinpoint the location and origin of their various tribal objects due to the nomadic nature and displacement of tribal communities. A goal of the map is to change the way people view tribes in terms of mapping and how time and location is a fluid concept.

From the southeast Muskogee Tribe, a Shoulder Bag of Cloth and Glass beads, ca. 1820, in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum.

From the southeast Muskogee Tribe, a Shoulder Bag of Cloth and Glass beads, ca. 1820, in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum.

These experiences over the past year have brought me full circle to my original purpose: to be a storyteller. It started with a small dream in Wyoming that has taken me across the country. Throughout my journey, I had to be ambitious, hardworking and diligent. These skills have taken me far. Now, I stand on the verge of a new experience that will help bring a voice to tribal communities and how we should be represented in museums. It has been liberating, exciting and empowering.

For more information on Jordan’s work in the Native American community, click here.

For more information on USF’s Museum Studies program, click here.

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