Out West student blog

Virtual Discovery

Enjoying the view at Gooseberry Falls (Photo credit: Martina Mazzei).

By Nina Wagner BS '20, MA '21
Hometown: Tonka Bay, MN
Major: Biology and History
Museum Intern, Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center

When I was accepted to work as the museum intern for the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center, much of my excitement was fueled by the thought of hands-on curatorial work and ten weeks of exploring the national park. While those dreams didn’t become a reality, I’ve been excited in many other ways while working remotely. Over the past several weeks, I’ve discovered how powerful pictures can be when it comes to exploring and understanding the natural and cultural history of the American West. Digital media provided by Yellowstone has allowed me and so many others to interact with the national park and its history without an in-person visit, and through the power of these pictures (along with the help of Microsoft Teams meetings) I’ve been able to successfully develop foundational skills in museum curation work.

As a part of my internship, I have been working on editing collection images and data for both the staff at Yellowstone and the public. I’ve learned how vital it is to document, edit, and organize images of museum collections as a part of working to preserve the history of Yellowstone National Park, and in turn seen the impact of this work on national park enthusiasts wanting to learn and explore from their own homes. One of the projects I worked on involved logging metadata for photo collections to be uploaded onto the Montana Memory Project website, as part of a project to provide free and open access to Montana-related digital materials for the public. I was amazed by the wealth of history that could be easily accessed on this one website and how helpful a website like this could be to me and many others researching remotely.

To round out my internship, I am spending these last few weeks creating an exhibit on the natural and cultural history of fishing at Yellowstone, to be shown in the lobby of the Heritage and Research Center. While I can’t be there to select specimens and set up the exhibit myself, museum databases and imagery have been successfully guiding me through this process. As a part of this exhibit, we are discussing creating an online interactive component to share on social media and Yellowstone’s website to make the exhibit more accessible at a time when visiting the park and the physical exhibit might not be possible. Through images, timelines, and explanations of fishing’s history at Yellowstone, people would be able to virtually visit my exhibit, and I am so excited to potentially be one of those virtual visitors.

With little time left, I am surprised at how much I’ve been able to learn and enjoy from sitting at my desk here in Minnesota. Through emails, Teams meetings, and the sharing of many documents and pictures, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of working remotely. As I sit here typing, with my cat curled up next to me, I am able to access a wealth of research and historical materials quickly and easily, and I am happy to know that many others can too.

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