Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notes from a Summer Internship by History Major Stephen Bowers

There is an old saying that states, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Well, this past summer I was blessed with the opportunity to not forget my historical background but rather to live it. I could do so through the Genesee Country Museum in Mumford, NY.

At the Genesee Country Museum, as an historical interpreter, I was given several tasks on a weekly basis. One of the jobs I was given was to work on an old pioneer farmstead that was established in about 1820 in Bloomfield, NY. Here I was given chores that a typical farmer in the 19th century would’ve had to do, such as feeding the livestock, fixing the fences, or even chasing the chickens into the coop. I even learned about what plants are good to eat and which ones aren’t.

Not only was I on the farm, this summer, but I was also working in an active 19th century brewery. The original brewery was owned by Walter Grieve in Geneva, NY and pumped water directly from Seneca Lake. Though I rarely was given the opportunity to brew, I did learn an outstanding amount about the history and the importance of beer, not only in the United States but also around the world.

My last duty was in an old gunsmith shop that is from Dalton, NY. Working in this shop taught me a valuable lesson. I do not mean to sound too “right winged” but the quote goes, “The gun has played a critical role in history. An invention which has been praised and denounced, served hero and villain alike, and carries with it moral responsibility. To understand the gun, is to better understand history.” This quote certainly holds true if think about all the instrumental times in our history the gun has gotten us to where we are today (the American Revolution?).

What the Genesee Country Museum teaches so well that our history books cannot teach, but is often overlooked, is the simple idea of how people were still people 200 years ago. They lived honest lives and arguably more grueling than the ones we live today. Needless to say, I cannot fully sum this summer up in 300 words other than to say it has been the experience of a lifetime and really hope I am welcomed back as I was welcomed this year.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Notes from a Summer Internship by History Major Leah Brownstein

Western New York is gifted with tremendous historical importance exposed through the many societies, museums, and public exhibits. Although there are many educational opportunities available to examine these various historical events, the rich history of Buffalo, New York is often overlooked by the public. Society’s lack of historical knowledge became discouragingly obvious to me as I began volunteering my time at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.

I spent the first three weeks of my internship expanding my knowledge of Theodore Roosevelt as well as of the early 1900’s. I then devoted the following two weeks to understanding, memorizing, and learning how to properly convey an enormous amount of information. After doing so and becoming familiar with the structure of the site itself, I began giving guiding tours as an official docent. My first day as a docent I nervously sat behind the circulation desk along with two other very experienced volunteers. We alternated leading tour groups through the exhibits.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Notes from a Summer Internship by History Major Kevin Yehl

When I decided to take part in a summer internship this year, I considered several different local organizations where I felt I could gain experience and further my understanding of history. Initially, I planned on looking for an internship where I could learn about the local history of Olean, New York. I felt this would be interesting because, for such a small town, Olean has an incredibly diverse past. While that would have been interesting, I ended up taking an internship at the Eldred World War II Museum in Eldred, Pennsylvania instead. I had been to the museum as a child and remembered how impressed I had been even at a young age.

I was surprised to find that there was an interesting story about how the museum had come to be, which started over sixty years ago. Initially, the museum opened in recognition of the men and women who worked at or had a part in creating the National Munitions Plant #1. The man who opened the museum and continues to fund it, Tim Roudebush, had a particular interest in its creation because it was his father, George M. Roudebush, who was the lawyer that secured the land and contract for the munitions plant to be built at the onset of World War II.

Prior to America’s entry into the war, Great Britain hired George M. Roudebush to find a suitable place for a munitions plant to help further their war effort. After looking at many different places, Roudebush settled on Eldred, Pennsylvania for several reasons. Due to Eldred’s geographic position, it was far enough inland that it would be untouchable by the Germans. Also, there were already railroads in place at the time, making it easy to transfer finished munitions to the coast and on to Great Britain. Finally, Eldred was already the home of a factory in which explosives were produced for use in civilian oil fields, which made for an easy conversion into military munitions.