Out West student blog

Transcontinental research

Image credit: Victoria Hill

Victoria Hill '22
Hometown: Portsmouth, VA
Major: Art History
Museum Intern, Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center


Working remotely has given me a renewed perspective on the nature of museum studies and the future of research. Over the course of my internship with Yellowstone National Park, I have come to appreciate the true value of adaptability and creativity in museum work and conservation. The main project I have been tasked with is to plan a virtual exhibition that will hopefully coincide with the park’s 150th anniversary in 2022. My supervisors and I are interested in exploring how early tourism facilitated the development of Yellowstone National Park as we know it today. I have been tasked with compiling a series of photographs and objects from the park’s collection which highlight different aspects of early tourism such as the establishment of lodging facilities, changes in transportation, and varying sources of recreation. 

I have spent the majority of this summer in Portsmouth, Virginia, my hometown, which is just a bit over 2,000 miles from Yellowstone. With this in mind, I was initially concerned about the quality of service I could provide the park as a remote intern, as well as about receiving the mentorship I sought out when I first applied for the position. However, I have had the privilege of working with a patient team of supervisors and other interns.

The major setback of remote work has been accessing the necessary research materials. Luckily, my supervisors have made themselves readily available and open to my research needs and interests. They have supplied physical materials such as books from the park’s library. More importantly, due to my inability to connect to the park’s database remotely, they have continued to provide collections data at my frequent and repeated requests. While these circumstances may be considered complications, they have made me a more communicative and flexible researcher.

That being said, I underestimated the amount of planning and collaboration that goes into virtual exhibitions and the research that supports them. As the weeks have progressed, I have learned to let the collection speak for itself rather than try to fabricate a narrative from the objects and images I come across. In exploring the collection with an open mind, certain themes and areas of interest have revealed themselves. When I began this internship, my passion and familiarity with the field of art history kept me focused on the art and artists inspired by Yellowstone. However, the natural progression and reworking of the park’s virtual exhibition exposed me to new subjects of fascination including the history of park transportation and wildlife conservation. In these ways, I have gained a new appreciation for the history and natural beauty of the American West. I look forward to the opportunity to experience Yellowstone in person.

Read more at the Out West Student Blog »

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