As a growing field and program, the Digital and Public Humanities program has various teachers, students, and classroom projects that deserve recognition and exploration. The purpose of the DPH “spotlight” is to showcase the interesting work that UWGB students, staff, and faculty have produced in the digital and public humanities. Through these stories, these individuals and groups have the power to inspire and spread the possibilities for collaborative, project-based work that engages our communities–regional, national, and global.
DPH Student Spotlight: Beth Siltala, an intern at the Richter Natural History Museum
Beth Siltala is a senior majoring in Digital and Public Humanities with a minor in Arts Management. During her time here at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, she has had several different internship opportunities in the humanities. She was an intern at the Neville Public Museum of Brown County where she worked in their collections management department and was also a part of the Sweeney Todd Project for over a year-and-a-half. This semester, she is an intern at UWGB’s very own Richter Natural History Museum. Beth has been tasked with a very important and interesting job working with the Richter Museum’s collections database. Beth’s past internships and classes have prepared her for this large and not-so-easy mission she has ahead of her this semester. We had the opportunity to discuss with Beth all the work that she has put thus far into her internship and how through these experiences she has grown as a student and individual.
In the spring of 2018, Beth learned about the Richter Museum internship opportunity through Professor and Humanities adviser, Dr. Heidi Sherman. Dr. Dan Meinhardt, the Richter Museum’s curator, was looking for a student to help with the Museum’s digital collection. The description of what he needed was an intern to standardize their digital collection, clean it up, and then move the Microsoft Access database to the standard museum database program Past Perfect. At first, Beth shared that she was skeptical about the internship because she has never worked or expressed interest in working in a natural history museum. But, with a positive attitude and the intention to use this opportunity to grow and widen future career opportunities, she said yes!
“This internship has enabled me to grow farther than any other project I have tackled.”
Beth has been interning at the Richter Museum since the fall of 2018. Initially, the project was tough and required various collaborative efforts with faculty members and organizations on campus in order to better understand how to go about cleaning a collections database. Beth met with Deb Anderson from the UW-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center in order to get a feel for what she should focus on in the clean-up. After this meeting, she further collaborated with Dr. Meinhardt and other student workers at the Richter Museum to discuss what the information within the database meant and its importance to the museum’s collection. Beth shared with us that she is essentially the “Legacy Project” and that everything she does for the Richter within the next few months will demonstrate all that she has learned throughout her four years at UWGB. Beth expressed that “being a Digital and Public Humanities student has enabled me to spread out to other organizations than just a large museum or gallery.”
Beth has been able to take what she learned from interning at the Neville Museum and other projects that she has worked on that dealt with collection managing and apply it to this internship. In her internship with the Neville Museum, she worked closely with their collections database that was on Past Perfect. She reflects on how their system was easy to navigate through and that using cheat sheets were helpful to guide in working within the database. All these things she has taken and applied to the Richter Museum’s database collection. Beth shared that “this internship has enabled me to grow father than any other project I have tackled.” Beth also mentioned that the Richter Museum’s collection needs major help to get organized for future collaboration with artists, students, researchers, departments, and interns.
Beth’s ideal career path is to work within museum collections and this internship has helped solidify that path. Beth hopes that through everything she has learned this semester, she can pass her knowledge on to the next intern who can continue her work when she leaves. Beth has done an outstanding job and has been a very involved student during her time here. She has had many internship opportunities and has used each one of them to grow as an individual and to further develop her future. The work she is doing at the Richter Natural History Museum is hard work and her dedication to herself and studies has enabled her to take on this difficult task. Beth, we wish you the best of luck and we can’t wait to see what you do next!