Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (NHS) and the Vancouver National Historical Reserve (NHR) offer many opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in several disciplines.
One of the more exciting and unique opportunities is an internship in public history, where a student earns credit at their college or university while working on a directed public history project for the park.
Whether students are seeking experience that is in the public eye or behind the scenes, at an introductory or advanced level, your national park is a great place to develop public history skills.
What public history internship opportunities exist?
These internships can take a number of forms, reflective of the diverse nature of public history programming at the site. Based on the student’s individual interest and the site’s needs, internship projects will be crafted in a mutually beneficial way.
Public history internship opportunities can be roughly divided into two categories: active program development and presentation, called personal services, and behind-the-scenes research, design, and/or writing – called non-personal services.
I like the idea of creating and presenting a public history program. What are some examples?
Students seeking public history program experience might research and present interpretive programs such as a guided tour of the architecture of Officers Row, a cultural demonstration featuring sea biscuit cooking in the Bake House, a living history program on the life of Grace Howard, or a public talk on the technology employed by the Army’s Spruce Production Division at the Vancouver Cut-Up Plant.
Public presentations don’t really interest me. Are there research or writing opportunities?
Absolutely! Students instead might choose a research or publications project, such as producing a site bulletin for public distribution that explains the Hawaiian connection to the fort, crafting a research paper for the park’s website that explores the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Reserve, designing and writing a wayside exhibit panel on the legacy of flight at Pearson Field, scanning and organizing park historic publications for public access on the park’s website, or researching the uniforms and participants of the town’s 1860’s baseball team to provide greater depth and historical accuracy to a park living history program.
I have experience in presentation and research. Are there advanced opportunities to learn about public history management?
Yes! Still other students may be more interested in practical public history management experience, choosing to help create a budget for living history programming, help review and evaluate program content, help design and manage interpretive activities at a special event, help identify and train living history volunteers, or help craft guidelines for cultural demonstrations.
What is the process? How can I get started?
Interested students should first meet with the internship coordinator at their college or university, as well as research the internship procedure appropriate to their institution. Generally speaking, once they receive approval from the coordinator, they should contact the park and be prepared to meet and discuss the following items:
- Statement of purpose
- The student should state their reasons for wanting to pursue a public history internship, including their learning objectives.
- Areas of interest
- The student should identify general areas of interest, as well as areas that clearly are not of interest.
- Other relevant experience
- The student should list work s/he may have done in a similar setting.
- Preparatory coursework
- The student should describe the courses s/he has taken that have provided appropriate background.
- Special skills
- The student should list applicable skills, such as knowledge of foreign and/or computer languages or the ability to do desktop publishing.
- The student should list their internship coordinator and two faculty members who can provide an evaluation of their abilities.
I’m very interested in talking with someone about setting up an internship in public history. Whom do I contact?
The park’s public history internship manager is Greg Shine, the site's Chief Ranger & Historian. Interested faculty or students should contact him by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 360-816-6231 with any questions or to set up a campus talk or preliminary placement interview.