A Rewarding Opportunity
By Cindy Peters, University of Nebraska Omaha
My VSFS internship with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative has been a rewarding opportunity so far. I have gotten the chance to work alongside some dedicated fellow interns and project managers. In particular, I have enjoyed speaking to many people from various parts of the country through our post-hurricane damage assessment outreach efforts. Although natural disasters affect communities in various ways, one thing that has always stood out the most is how people are willing to contribute information that can help other affected organizations. I think it’s wonderful to see other organizations pitch in to help preserve the uniqueness of their local community’s culture.
I’ve really enjoyed working to compile information to help locate cultural organizations in hurricane-affected regions. Oftentimes verifying organizations is simple through a general online search. However, sometimes all we have to work with is the name of an organization and we are tasked with researching and populating all the other information to be able to contact and assess damage to those institutions. It’s these rather obscure organizations that make the job challenging and interesting for me, but sometimes this task can be daunting. So much time is spent on research that it can sometimes seem impossible to find the necessary information. However, wanting to make a difference is what motivates me to keep trying to find any connection that can potentially help an organization. After spending quite some time on this research, my favorite part is seeing all the information I have found fall into place, and finally discovering the identity of the organization.
Although I truly enjoy the investigative aspect of my job, the most rewarding part for me is to hear people express gratitude that someone has contacted them. One of the most memorable conversations I’ve had so far was with a director of an African American history museum. She had told me that their church, built by slaves and holding significant history and meaning to the community, had suffered significant damage as a result of hurricane Florence. She was so thankful to hear that people cared about mending an important piece of cultural history for her community.
In this world where many of us a have tendency to keep to ourselves, it can make a difference to know that someone out there cares enough to reach out and make that human connection. I will always treasure my time as a VSFS intern with the Cultural Rescue Initiative and the impact that my team’s work has on cultural preservation for various communities in the country. I look forward to continuing my work and connecting with other people.