By: Emily Andrew, Dartmouth
I sincerely hope that your time at Sam Noble is nothing like mine. No, that’s not me slamming Sam Noble or trying to scare you away from what I’m sure will be an incredibly enjoyable and educational internship. My internship took place at what we all hope is the end of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021. This wider context undoubtedly affected my experience in ways I cannot fully understand. However, even with these difficulties, the people and projects at Sam Noble provided me with a plethora of practical and engaging experiences, and I have upmost confidence that they will continue to do so for all their future interns.
My internship began with several simple tasks that aimed to help familiarize me with the physical locations of objects and tools within the building, with different physical tasks associated with repatriation, and, of course, with the different individuals working within the Archeology Department. The most central of these tasks was creating and attaching tags that describe important information about an object, including the provenience number, the object description and count, and the specific collection of which this object is a part. I found this task to be quite relaxing and enjoyable, though I would recommend bringing along an audiobook or podcast to enjoy while you’re working. Time flies when you’re listening to something you’re passionate about, and it will help keep you focused and prevent you from making mistakes.
The next task I was assigned to was completing assessments of several specific sites. The best way I can define assessment is by saying that it’s probably the closest you will get in this internship to the Hollywood ideal of archeologists. Don’t worry, you won’t find yourself running from rolling boulders and stealing relics from ancient tombs. Assessment is the part of the process where an individual receives a paper with all of the different objects that are supposed to be in a specific collection, and they are expected to comb through the entire collection and ensure that all of the objects are present, that their descriptions and object counts are correct, and that any issues that may require expert stabilization are properly logged and recorded in the database. It is incredibly detail-oriented work and can be quite time consuming, especially in larger collections or collections that have not been well-preserved. I have even found boxes in which all of the objects inside are still wrapped within the original paper from their excavation over 90 years ago. In this task, you will almost inevitably encounter problems, some of which you may not be able to solve on your own. That’s okay. The most important lesson that you can learn in this internship is not to be afraid to ask for help, for clarification, or for confirmation. It’s more important that these tasks be done right than fast.
I spent much of the latter half of my internship working on data entry and data correction for a variety of sites. This task is necessary right after an assessment is completed, as any new problems or resolved past issues must be recorded in the database. Data entry is rarely anyone’s favorite simply due to the monotony of it. However, without it, the entire system of the Archeology Department would almost certainly begin to break down. For me, data entry boils down to three simple truths: It will never be your favorite job at Sam Noble. It is one of the most important jobs in the entire Archeology Department. Finally, and this goes for every single task I have discussed or will discuss in the future, if you are unsure, please ask for help. The time it takes to explain something is infinitely smaller than the time it will take for someone to redo that entire project.
Near the end of my internship, I moved into the 2nd floor lab to learn how to label artifacts with Ms. Sally Johnston, one of the department’s long-term volunteers. If you long for the days of high school chemistry and biology labs, this might end up being one of your favorite areas. Labeling artifacts isn’t particularly difficult, and anyone who has ever dreamt of becoming a nail technician might really enjoy it. Attention to detail is important, as always, but having extreme body control and finger dexterity is almost more so. Anyone labeling artifacts needs to be able to handle remarkably small objects with extreme care as to attach the remarkably small labels (that they have cut down to this size themselves) with a liquid that is essentially the same as clear fingernail polish. My most central advice for this area? If caffeine makes your hands shake, skip it on these days and, once again, bring that favorite podcast or audiobook along with you.
Overall, I would define my time at Sam Noble as one of community. Of course, I found myself learning, discovering, and practicing a variety of new skills. I learned on both a theoretical and a practical level, thanks to our various readings and my regular work on the fourth and fifth floors. However, while these aspects of the internship were obviously important, it was the community within the Museum that really made this internship stand out against all of my others. I have worked in a variety of institutions throughout my high school and college careers; yet I can only think of one other position in which I found a workplace that felt so open, friendly, and collaborative. That specific factor is what caused this internship to stand apart from the others, and, more importantly, it is what confirmed for me that this is the industry and the cause to which I hope to dedicate my life.
Sam Noble, I thank you for your time. For the knowledge that you have imparted onto me and the experiences that I have been able to enjoy. More than anything though, I thank you for the people that you have brought together and the community that you have built.