Originally published Sept. 15, 2011
In an effort to continue to preserve and promote the culture and backstory of West Michigan, the Kutsche Office of Local History is partnering with local organizations to provide Grand Valley State University students a variety of internships.
The Caledonia Historical Society, Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Public Library are a handful of the 14 groups that students can assist during a year- or semester-long internship organized by the office.
Veta Tucker, the director of the Kutsche Office, said the internships would be a beneficial supplement to history degrees. Tucker said the internships would be especially helpful for students interested in public history.
“A degree in history does not necessarily prepare you to work in a public history institution,” she said. “There are some specific skills, like archiving and preservation, that you don’t get with a degree in history. You just do the theoretical. You just learn the information. But how you deliver the information and how you store and preserve that information are special skills that public history institutions specialize in.”
Some interns may work on researching history, digitizing information, recording oral histories and writing highlights of local historical places for Heritage Hill Association. Others may teach local school children about life during the Civil War for History Remembered/Sons of Union Veterans. The opportunities vary depending on the organization, but Tucker is confident that students will contribute to the community and acquire valuable skills in any of the internships.
Although the Kutsche Office just started offering the internships this fall, it has already helped nine students secure positions for this semester, and helped one student, senior Abby D’Addario, complete two internships already. D’Addario, who worked in the Kutsche Office this past summer and organized the internship program, also worked as an intern for the Jenison Historical Association during the summer of 2010.
As an English literature major, D’Addario said she gained great experience studying the historical side of literature. However, D’Addario was not the only one to benefit from her involvement. “The internships are a great opportunity for students to not only experience history in a richer way, but to help and support local communities,” she said. “We don’t do that enough.”
The internships, which stretch from the Lakeshore to as far as Caledonia, are generally unpaid because many of the organizations are run by community volunteers. “There’s a personal investment in terms of making it to the internships,” Tucker said. “But the rewards and what they’re going to learn about archives and artifacts and organizing and preserving documents is invaluable to them and is something that they can certainly put on their résumé in the future.”
Students of any major or class standing with a GPA of at least 2.5 may apply online. For more information on applying to internships, visit the website at http://www.gvsu.edu/kutsche. Interested students can also visit the Kutsche Office of Local History on the first floor of Lake Ontario Hall.