The Heurich House Museum is a small scale non-profit located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Due to its size, this house museum has a staff of under 10, which has made my experience much more insightful than one at a larger institution. The purpose of this museum is to preserve, explore, and share knowledge about the life and family of Christian Heurich and, more recently, to extend that same effort into the stories of the household staff and brewery workers at the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. Within my role, I am primarily a member of the education team, conducting archival research on household staff mentioned by Amelia Heurich, Christian’s third wife, in her collection of diaries.
Since archival research has its challenges and sticky points, especially in a virtual setting, I have also been working on two other projects within my role. First, I am creating a month long social media campaign with a fellow intern that uses oral histories from the Heurich’s relatives to discuss different areas of the family’s history. Some of our themes include gender roles in the workforce of the Gilded Age, the impact of German Heritage on Heurich’s business, and the legacy he left on the D.C. community. After selecting quotes from the audio, I have been working on research to bolster the content. Next, the social media intern will distill my information and create engaging posts for our Instagram follower. This project is an interesting combination of education work and curatorial work as it puts in my hands the responsibility to find, organize, and curate information that will educate the public on the museum’s work.
My second shorter term project has been with the museum’s director on more managerial aspects of the nonprofit. Firstly, I assisted in a review of the organization’s current document retention policy and suggested updates based on research into good leadership practices for nonprofits. This project will continue once I receive my second COVID-19 vaccination and am able to enter the museum to organize physical files and make sure that the policy is followed properly. In the meantime, I am assisting the director by establishing a succession of leadership plan. To accomplish this, the first step is to poll the other museum leaders on what parts of their duties they rely on the director to fulfil. The plan is to first send a Google form their way, and follow up with individual meetings so that I can collect the information for the director on what each staff member needs from her before a transition would occur.
These projects are fully engaging and assisting me well within the goals I established at the beginning of my semester. I wanted to better understand the archival research process, how education is promoted in a museum field, and how nonprofits, specifically museums, operate both day to day and in the long run. This community has fully embraced me and my learning goals, which has been a great change from some of my past experiences. I find myself learning more each day and have a great support system when I run into roadblocks. In the next few weeks of the semester, I expect to continue with these projects and hopefully have a solid portfolio of work to serve me well in my next positions.