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History major interns at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum for two summers

Student Erika Wesch writes research paper about the effects of COVID-19 on museums

Photo Courtesy of Erika Wesch

Erika Wesch (‘23) recently took part in an internship at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum. She has interned there for two summers, 2019 and 2020, the latter during COVID-19.

“I found the internship through the Center for Career and Life Planning (CCLP) and through the History Department at Rollins,” Wesch said. 

The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum is a waterfront lighthouse operated by the Loxahatchee River Historical Society. This museum features 5,000 years of history and preserves the maritime heritage of the Jupiter Inlet area.

Wesch was able to receive credit hours for her internship and worked with Dr. Strom, the head of the history department at Rollins. 

“When you do an internship for credit, you have to do assignments for the professor that you’re working with,” Wesch explained. “The plan was to do three short papers, but we liked my first paper so much that we decided to do a full research paper on it. The research paper was kind of like a case study about some of the different effects that COVID-19 had on museums and their interns and the industry as a whole.” 

Writing the research paper was easier for Wesch, as she had first-hand knowledge about the influence of COVID-19 on museums, which she could compare to her pre-COVID-19 internship.

Since Florida does not have strict COVID-19 restrictions, Wesch explained that she was able to physically be at the museum during her internship. Despite this freedom, there were still some obstacles that were not there the year before: “Social distancing was not possible in certain areas, so we had to close half of our exhibits, just for safety. The good thing is that most of our site is outside,” said Wesch.

Even though she was able to work in-person this past summer, there were still positions that some people who worked remotely could not do. 

“The aspect that I was working [on] in the museum was majorly customer service; that position would not even exist virtually,” Wesch said. “I was also working in archives, going through our library and organizing artifacts, which also would have been an entirely different experience.”

Although she is a history major who interned at a museum, Wesch said that “no matter what field you volunteer or intern in, you still get a very valuable experience and end up learning so many skills that can be transferred into other professions.” 

Wesch said, “I think that I would not want to do what I did this summer for a career. The point of this past summer was that I did not know if I wanted to work in museums or not, so it helped me know what I liked and what I did not. Now I know that I do not see myself working in customer service and would rather work in collections.”

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