The Outsider Looking In

By Tanner Sprankle, Western Washington University

Whenever I visit a city for the first time, I always find myself in a museum that is housed there. Regardless of how rural or urban the location and how large or small the collection, that is where you will find me on my vacation. To this day I can’t accurately express why, but it must be in part because museums are as close as I can get as an outsider to understanding and loving a place as much as someone who has lived there for years. This is perhaps why I was initially drawn to the VSFS internship hosted by the Smithsonian Rescue Initiative, because my love for museums in places I have yet to visit often manifests as concern when those institutions are threatened.

While preemptively cataloguing museums and heritage repositories to be able to efficiently assess for any damage following disasters certainly addresses that concern and is a significant reason why I have become more interested in pursuing a career related to museum studies, it has ultimately not been the reason why I find this internship so engaging. Rather, it is the fact that this internship has made my internet habits rather similar to my vacation habits in that I now find myself with a valid reason to spend hours perusing the websites of museums and local organizations halfway across the country in locations I have never visited and probably won’t for a good while yet. It is giving me the chance to become invested in the history and people of places I hadn’t even known about through the art and history they choose to display and preserve as a valuable part of their cultural heritage.