Reflecting on the internship experience

In Fall 2019, Gentrice Petrie reflected on her internship experience at the Public Lands History Center. Looking back, she noted that having the chance to observe the work of professional historians and their clients made an impression on her.

During my semester as an undergraduate intern at the PLHC, I had the opportunity to shadow several historians and attend meetings with some of the PLHC’s clients. By the end, I had a better understanding of the variety in professional historians’ practical, every day work.

An internship with impact

Petrie also observed a professional oral history interview. She recalled:

I had the opportunity to shadow Program Manager, Ariel Schnee, as she conducted an oral history. She interviewed retired Superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park, Patrick Reed. In his oral history, Reed shared stories from his career in the National Park Service.

The interview Petrie observed shed light onto not only Reed’s career, but also hinted at other histories. Reed’s stories illustrated aspects of park life that official sources do not capture. For example, Reed told his interviewers about the important informal roles that families and spouses played in park operations.

In the mid-twentieth century, the NPS did not employ many women. Regardless, women played vital roles as volunteers and informally took on important work that supported the park. Reed recalled that during emergencies or busy times, his wife occasionally filled in to dispatch rangers. He even recalled her caring for the black bears that park staff trapped near campsites until the rangers could relocate them safely. These kinds of “invisible” contributions are only documented in peoples’ memories. Preserving these stories allows historians to tell richer histories of the National Parks and of all the people who contributed to managing them.

Growing a professional network and professional skills

At the internship’s close, Petrie remarked:

By the end of the semester, I was able to leverage the professional experience I gathered from these observations to organize a Brown Bag speaker event with the Park Manager at Lory State Park, Roy McBride.

In addition to growing her professional network, Petrie noted that she also grew as a writer and author during the internship. She noted that the PLHC blog’s intensive editorial process helped her envision what more professional publication opportunities outside of the classroom might be like.

I also compiled a post for the center’s blog. The publication staff kneaded and reworked my writing several times,  edited, and fact-checked it, and finally approved the post for publication. None of my writing prior to PLHC had been scrutinized to the extent of my blog submission. It was a hugely helpful experience in preparing for more serious future cracks at academic publication.

Some other projects I tackled as an intern included [setting] up a cataloging system for the center’s library, and transcribing the oral history interview recorded this past summer at Rocky Mountain National Park during PPL.

Many thanks to Gentrice for all of her hard work at the PLHC this semester!


*Remarks edited for brevity and clarity.