Learning Local History at Carnegie Museum

Austin Flynn ’11 – This summer I am privileged to serve as the Collections Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County, an opportunity made possible by the Know Indiana Cultural Internship program. During the past four weeks, I have been acquainted with the ups and downs of museum operations.

As the Collections Intern, it is my primary duty to catalogue and update the museum’s extensive database. This allows for accurate documentation of everything the museum has in its possession, whether it was given as a gift or simply loaned for a time. While this process was overwhelming at first, I soon became adept at operating the database and have since documented several new accessions and loans. While a majority of this sort of work involves time at a computer, I recently ventured down into the storage rooms where I discovered the artifacts that I have been documenting.

To copy a brief description into a database is one thing, but to actually see and touch the artifacts is something entirely different. I have been asked more than once during this internship why I chose to seek employment at a museum. For a while I pondered this, and my experience in the storage rooms has made me realize exactly why I sought this job. I am a lover of stories, and each item within the walls of the Carnegie Museum has a story. The simplest farming implement once had a function. It meant something to someone; it represented his or her livelihood. To be exposed to these relics, each with their own unique background, has given me a greater appreciation for the role of history as a means of telling the story of the past.

Being from a small county, I understand that the richest aspects of a region’s history can be easily lost in the big picture. Many are unable or unwilling to take the time to look around them and realize that there is a story to everything. I appreciate what the Carnegie Museum is doing for the community. It gives Montgomery County citizens, old and young, a chance to experience that which has been lost over time. They can rediscover what it is that makes their community unique and special. Seeing older citizens of Montgomery County looking at the exhibits and reminiscing about businesses that have long since closed or telling a story about a past community figure is an enriching experience.

It is even better to see 3rd graders in awe at the fact that Crawfordsville native Joe Allen worked for NASA and clocked over 300 hours in space (we have his space suit!). It shows them that there is something cool and interesting about the small town in which they live. I love being a part of this and getting to see the reactions of everyone who visits. The community emphasis of the Carnegie Museum shows its devotion to the preservation of small town history.

I would like to thank Laura Conners and the Career Services staff at Wabash College, as well as the professors who helped me with letters of recommendation, for making this possible. I would also like to give a big thank you to Ms. Burkhart and Ms. Fairfield at the Carnegie Museum for acquainting me with everything and continually helping me have a great internship experience. I am privileged to be able to not only gain valuable workplace experience but also a greater appreciation for Montgomery County history.

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