Museum Memories: Connecticut’s Old State House

Added to Medium, February 7, 2019 

I recently have thought about the reasons why I started writing this blog, and one of those reasons was to remember my experiences in the museum field. Each museum I have worked for or done projects with has opened up doors for many opportunities to learn and grow in my career, and I thought that if I share some of my memories of these experiences another museum professional would be able to benefit from them. For this week, I decided to write about some of them at Connecticut’s Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut.

Me at Connecticut’s Old State House

The Old State House’s mission is to reawaken citizen engagement and awareness by offering an authentic, educational and inspiring visitor experience by putting ideas on display in historic rooms that celebrate democracy and citizenship from the past and present. While I was in graduate school earning my Master’s degree in Public History, I got the opportunity to complete an internship with Connecticut’s Old State House.

For one of my assignments, my classmates and I interviewed suggested professionals in the public history field and learn what we could about their experiences in the careers relevant to the interviewees’ career path. Then after we had the interviews we were to write about them and what we learned from their experiences. Since I expressed interest in the museum field as I started the graduate program, I decided to interview Rebecca Taber-Conover who is currently Head of Public Programs & History Day. I met her at the Old State House and asked her about her experiences in the museum field as well as any advice she could give me. At the end of the interview, she told me that there was an opening for an internship and I decided to join them for a summer internship for museum education.

On the first day of the internship, I joined the education team as they taught one of the last school programs of the school year. The school brought over a hundred students of varying grade levels between kindergarten and fifth grade and they were split into groups to explore the Old State House. The group I assisted the educator with was with kindergarten children. We helped the kids create spyglasses using paper towel tubes to use as part of the “I Spy” program where the kids can walk around the Old State House and point out what they “spy” in each room they visited.

During the rest of the internship, I sat in on staff meetings to find out what common questions were asked during tours we did not already have answers for and I used those questions to do research to answer them. I regularly visited the Connecticut State Library to do research, and recorded answers into the Google Doc so we would be able to answer them in the future. Also, in the meetings I also learned about the Farmer’s Market and what goes into planning it. According to the website, the goal of Connecticut’s Old State House Farmer’s Market is

to offer a variety of products from as many farmers and artisan vendors as possible within the available space. We are committed to offering a vibrant marketplace in downtown Hartford where local farmers and artisans can enjoy coming together with the community to share the “best” of what Connecticut has to offer!

At the Farmer’s Market, I handed out flyers for upcoming programs for Connecticut’s Old State House dressed in an eighteenth century style dress. One of the programs that I also sat in on and assisted with is called Conversations at Noon.

Conversations at Noon is a series that provides opportunities to hear about relevant topics about Connecticut history and current events during lunch time at the Old State House. For instance, a couple of the topics covered in previous conversations include “Did Hartford’s Constitution Plaza Hurt or Help the City?” and “Exploring Connecticut and the Slave Trade”. It is also aired on Connecticut Network (CT-N) and on their website. At the Conversations at Noon, I distributed the surveys on how to improve the quality of the series and collected them for review. I also provided tours for visitors during its open hours.

Each tour started with an introductory video that gives an overview of the history of the Old State House. Then once the video has ended I guided groups through unique exhibits including the Museum of Curiosities, and the historic rooms. The Museum of Curiosities started as a portrait studio by Reverend Joseph Steward inside the Old State House in 1796, and a year later a “Curiosity Room” was established which featured wonders and treasures around the world. Another favorite part of the tour was the statue of Lady Justice which was on top of the Old State House in 1827. Also during my internship, I developed a scavenger hunt for children to search for animals painted on the walls of the Education Center.

This internship was an important experience because it was at Connecticut’s Old State House where my passion for museum education developed and my career in museum education began. I am especially grateful for the experiences I had, the memories I developed, and the opportunities that led to where I am today.

What was your experiences like in your internships?

Resources:

Connecticut’s Old State House: https://www.cga.ct.gov/osh/default.asp

Connecticut Network: https://www.ct-n.com/

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