By Emma Cogan, Winter Break Intern, The 1846 Project
Where are you from and what brings you to the Museum?
My name is Emma Cogan and I am a senior at Loyola University, Maryland where I study history and philosophy. I am interested early American, Atlantic, and intellectual history. I am from the Washington D.C. area and therefore grew up visiting the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. I hope to work in archives, historic preservation, or in the museum field after I graduate so working here has been both incredibly exciting and rewarding.
How did you get “Behind those Doors?”
I came across the Winter Break Internship through the Smithsonian's internship webpage. The Winter Break Internship is a month long, full-time internship experience that occurs over the winter holidays at the Museum. It allows interns to work extensively on specific research projects. The website provides summaries of these various research projects. I contacted the supervisor of the project I was most interested in and was told to provide a resume. After a few weeks, I received an e-mail from my soon-to-be supervisor informing me I was accepted into the program.
What is it you’re doing back there, behind those doors?
I worked on the 1846 Project under the supervision of Paul Kimberly with the Associate Director for Research and Collections. My task was to create a digital database containing a list of the names and publications of all the scientists who have worked at the Institution since its founding in 1846. The first part of my job required me to find the names of these scientists; I looked primarily through old staff directories and annual reports from the Institution. After creating a comprehensive list of these names, I began to search for publication records in the Institution’s annual reports. The final step of my project required tracking down the publications themselves through an online database of scientific reports, articles, and reviews. Other interns on this project interviewed current scientists, searching for additional names or to correct any information we discovered.
What’s been the most amazing or unexpected thing youʼve seen, experienced or discovered while being part of the NMNH academic community?
While my work is fascinating in itself, there are so many added perks to working at the Museum. In one afternoon tour for instance, I held a rock from Mars, saw volcanic debris from Mount St. Helens and came face-to-face with a 17th-century skeleton from Jamestown. Working in such a historically significant museum was also a surreal experience. Every day I delved knee-deep into archival material in an office that just happens to overlook the famous rotunda. This has, by far, been the most fantastic opportunity of my undergraduate career.