Preservation through Perseverance

By Diana Clark, Penn State University

I wear many hats daily – healthcare recruiter, mom, wife, and grad student to name a few – and now intern. As a mid-career professional who decided to return to school to obtain my master’s degree in Human Resources, I didn’t need an internship, but I found that I really wanted to have the experience. I’ve spent my entire professional career working in human resources in the healthcare industry, a place where I feel that even menial tasks can have an impact. I knew that if I was going to volunteer my time through a VSFS internship that I wanted it to be a meaningful experience as well.

I was most interested in the opportunity to intern for the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative after having gone through a few tumultuous hurricane seasons in Florida over the last several years. Growing up in the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the history and culture encompassing my small hometown. Hurricane Matthew (2016) and Hurricane Irma (2017) caused extensive wind damage and flooding on our historic bayfront. At the heart of the historic downtown sits the Castillo de San Marcos, a Spanish fort constructed in 1695, and one of many historical sites monitored by SCRI. Watching this small town come together after such destruction made me realize that our identity as a community rests within the local history that we preserve. One of our assignments in our internship was to obtain data for the cultural heritage sites for Florida with the approach of Hurricane Dorian. I’m grateful that we did not have a need to use the information we obtained, thankful for the people who have kept this history alive, and appreciative of the incredible work that SCRI does daily.

In small ways, my fellow interns and I have been able to assist with SCRI’s mission to protect cultural heritage threatened or impacted by disasters and to help U.S. and international communities preserve their identities and history. We have been able to provide valuable data for states and locales with above average risk, cataloging historical sites and cultural centers. The opportunity to work with SCRI has been rewarding and I’m certain that my contributions will make a difference. Prior to this experience, I wasn’t aware of this program but I’m certain that the impact SCRI makes in this country and in the world is valuable, needed and appreciated.

Castillo de San Marcos, a Spanish fort in St. Augustine, FL constructed in 1695
Castillo de San Marcos, a Spanish fort in St. Augustine, FL constructed in 1695.
Source: NPGallery