Posted on 11 September 2014
My internship placement was with Dr Mary Garrison and the University of York, conducting research for the development of a grant proposal entitled "The Oblivion of the Anglian Era". I signed up for it expecting to spend my time reading through archives and old guidebooks, but ended up spending a great deal of my time outdoors. This was due to the need to visit public history sites and museums, including Whitby Abbey and Bede's World. At these location I was able to se how the Anglo-Saxon history of the surrounding area is presented to the public and contrast it with the presentation within York. I was also able to spend time walking around York itself, fitting in with groups of tourists. However the pictures which I took were not of the wall or the Minster, but of advertisements and plaques, recording the periods of history which were presented to the public.
Of course, I also spent a great deal of time poring through books and records. I had the opportunity to visit the archives of the York Archaeological Trust, where I read through newspaper clippings from the 1970's and 1980's, detailing the discoveries at the Coppergate site, as well as the establishment of the Jorvik Museum. These records included clippings from Norwegian and Danish newspapers, providing a record not only of how the discoveries were presented in Britain, but how they were perceived abroad. Another valuable resource was collection of guidebooks and pamphlets held by the University of York library, which showed how emphases on the Roman, Anglian and Scandinavian eras have shifted over the last hundred and twenty years.
I also got to spend time on Facebook! One of my tasks was to look at the online presentation of this history and sites associated with it such as Jorvik, the Minster and York Tourism centres. Consequently I spent a day looking through Twitter, Facebook and even Pinterest to see how these organisation try and attract visitors and how they used York's history to do this.
One of the major aspects of the internship which I enjoyed was that I was given the freedom to work alone and independently. I reported in to my internship supervisor every couple of weeks, working my way through a list of topics which she had determined in advance and which were an integral part of the application. Consequently I was able to work in many locations including the library, at home and even on the train.
As a Master's student this internship allowed me to put to practical use the skills which I have developed over the course of my degrees. One of the major opportunities which I had as a result of the programme was interviewing people who worked in York public history. These interviews were a vital part of the work, allowing me to see how the people who have created the history of York chose which aspects to present to the public.
Public History Internship