Graduate Insight: A History Degree at Work

Jennifer Cimmarusti (’18) at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center in Douglas, MI.

Hello to all the current History students, faculty and staff, and alumni. It has been well over a year since I stepped foot into Lubbers to attend a class and a lot has changed since then. I took a well-needed year off from school to figure out what I exactly was going to do with my newly acquired degree. After some soul searching, I started volunteering at my local museum. At the time, I was considering museum work but was having trouble getting my foot in the door. Then, Dr. Janes passed along a flyer for a museum internship in Douglas, MI. And, after a few short weeks, I started working at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center.

My official job title is the “Communication and Events Intern” but that hardly fits what I do. I have worked in nearly all aspects of the museum, from archives to customer service. My first big project was working on the annual newspaper, The Historical Chronicle. It was my responsibility to call advertisers, pick articles, lay out the page design and edit copy. It was truly a challenge for a newcomer like me. Thankfully, we were able to complete the newspaper and have it printed for the summer tourists. My other work included creating advertisements for events and exhibit openings, working as a greeter and cashier, and writing articles for the monthly newsletter. Along with that, I was able to work in the archives and cataloged all of the center’s LGBTQ items. My favorite project was working in the art gallery. In August, the History Center opened an exhibit on local artist and art teacher, Cora Bliss Taylor. I researched the artist and helped collect paintings for the exhibit. I also played a role in writing the artifact labels. It was hard work, but I loved every minute of it. From my experience at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, I now know I want to become a museum curator and will be applying to graduate school for Museum Studies.

Artist Cora Bliss Taylor’s exhibition didactic from the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, featuring Jen Cimmarusti (’18) as Assistant Curator.

My advice for future historians: if you think you might be interested in working in a museum – try volunteering. I know from first-hand experience that small museums have many projects and not enough people to help. On behalf of The Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, we would like to extend a special invitation for Hope students to intern for class credit. If interning does not fit your schedule, you can still volunteer your time for the experience. The History Center currently needs help in arranging their holiday events, writing the monthly newsletter and annual newspaper, and working on Fall 2019 and Summer 2020 exhibits. If you are interested, please let them know! Saugatuck and Douglas are a short distance from campus (about 20 minutes). If you do not have transportation, no problem. There is a bus service, the Interurban, which travels from Holland to Saugatuck and Douglas.

For questions, contact Eric Gollannek.
Phone: (269) 857-5751, Email: info@sdhistoricalsociety.org

**If you want history credit for it, please contact the Hope College History Department.

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