Last Friday, July 12th was my last day of my summer internship at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum. Since my last post I finished the 30th Anniversary photo exhibit entitled, “Celebrating 30 Years: Building on a Foundation” which is displayed in the museum’s gallery and showcases events, visitors, and major milestones in the museum’s 30 year history. I also continued to work on relocating the photographic collection, making sure to remove photos from improper containers and place them in acid-free folders, and assisted with cataloging newly acquired artifacts into the PastPerfect software. Upon finishing those projects, I began helping the museum with their volunteer and intern recruitment by creating a profile and writing volunteer descriptions on VolunteerMatch.org. With additional volunteers, the museum could really expand its programming, be better prepared for large group tours, and have plenty of assistance with special events. Interested? View the museum’s profile here: http://www.volunteermatch.org/search/org581216.jsp
My experience at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in what was my second internship there was very valuable. I learned so much about small museum operations as well as hands on skills such as textile conservation, curating exhibits, and artifact accession and cataloging.
As my second internship with the museum, I noticed many positive changes the staff had made in areas such as professionalization of the museum, expansion of programming such as a new Saturday Series that features on-site demonstrators of various trades, and a new method of volunteer recruitment that emphasizes rewards for long-term service. I think the museum can continue to grow, expand, and build on itself with continued emphasis on live demonstrations and hands-on programming and the recruitment of volunteers to assist with events, daily operations, and exhibits.
I have a few suggestions in response to some of the challenges this museum (as well as many other small non-profits) faces. If funds and labor (perhaps volunteer?) are available, another option to continue growing the museum and drawing in the public would be to revise and update the exhibits themselves. Hands-on and interactive devices and technologies would better fit the expectations of today’s museum visitor. However, I realize that one (of the biggest) of the challenges for a private non-profit museum is funding.
One other challenge to this specific museum may be the controversy over tobacco—obviously unhealthy in many ways, but historically vital to the economy of this region. Some individuals or organizations are less likely to support an organization related to tobacco; however, perhaps if the museum’s programming and exhibits addressed the controversy head on, presenting the many and various perspectives of issues related to tobacco, they would draw interest, and perhaps support, from many more places.
Regardless, I see the museum as an important educational resource in many ways—its exhibits and events present rural life in the past and educate today’s youth on past ways of living. The museum does a very good job of representing a cohesive view of all aspects of life, not just tobacco farming. I have had two wonderful experiences as an intern at the museum and am immensely grateful for the opportunity to learn about the history of the area where I was raised as well as learn new skills.
Visit the museum’s website for more info or to plan your visit (which I recommend): http://tobaccofarmlifemuseum.org/. Or visit them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tobacco-Farm-Life-Museum-Inc/128437704517.