When Max Martin arrived at Nebraska Wesleyan University, museum curator wasn’t exactly on his list of potential careers.
But an internship at the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) provided an opportunity to explore a new career and gain some international recognition.
The history major from Lincoln, Neb., spent the summer curating collections of items donated to the AHSG, inventorying new artifacts into a museum’s catalogue, assisting researchers and giving tours.
“While I enjoyed each of the tasks I was assigned, curating collections of items was a definite favorite,” said Martin.
The process of curating a collection allowed Martin to gain knowledge about Germans from Russia “in a way no history textbook could teach.”
Martin’s interest in museum curation was piqued through his history and political science classes that included the topic. Classmates also shared their experiences with museum work, which led Martin to pursue an internship with AHSGR.
Sandra Mathews, professor of history, knows the importance of internships and the difference they can make for history majors.
“They have the opportunity to network, learning such things as the numerous career options available to graduates with a degree in history, credentials required in the field of public history, and not inconsequentially, how to put their academic training into practice,” she said.
NWU history majors have an impressive track record with internships, Mathews said, citing experiences like putting together museum exhibits, sharing historical information on NASA’s Twitter account, preparing paperwork to place buildings on the state and federal historical registries and researching historic theaters in Lincoln.
Mathews incorporates public history into her courses so that students have it as a viable career option. Her Nebraska history course requires students to research a museum or historic site, plan a trip, and interview the directors of these sites.
“The purpose is to share the variety of opportunities and level of training required for these diverse fields. As a result, several majors have turned to archival, library, and museum fields after graduation,” said Mathews
During his internship, Martin curated an exhibit that commemorated the AHSGR’s 50thanniversary. In his exhibit, Martin focused on important members of the AHSGR and gathered banners of each AHSGR chapter in the United States.
The display impressed the AHSGR executive director who displayed it at the 2019 International Convention this summer.
“The fact that the AHSGR director was excited about my exhibit and wanted to show it at their international convention was a great thing to hear and made me quite proud of my work,” said Martin.
Martin said the knowledge he has gained and the connections he’s made at his internship will serve him going forward.
“My internship experience has taught me a great deal of both factual knowledge of the German Russians as well as taught me several skills in the field of library science and gave me a taste of what that type of work may feel like.”
Martin’s time at the AHSGR has shown him that a career as an archivist could be quite fulfilling. The senior plans to attend graduate school and possibly get involved in politics as a campaign manager or lobbyist.
“There are a lot of options I still need to work out, but I am happy that my internship opened a door into something that I think I would enjoy,” he said.
—Story by Kelsea Porter