Today, meet Eric Behm. Eric graduated in May 2011, but not before he had several wonderful internships. While pursuing his History & Government degree, Eric became interested in public history. Public historians interpret and present history to the general public. To get experience in the area, he was a volunteer intern for the YWCA of Western New York and helped them to identify and organize materials from their archives. He used this experience to apply for a dream opportunity: one of a handful of internships available at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY. Always fascinated by FDR’s life, he was accepted for an internship in the summer of 2010.
Eric had a great experience with library staff who helped him decide that he really wanted a future career in some area of public history. He was able to work first-hand with the actual documents FDR used, like his appointment diaries. Eric said it was a great experience to work with the “raw materials of history.” He also enjoyed learning much more about Eleanor Roosevelt and her accomplishments both in and outside of the White House. He also helped with the constant updating of the library’s database project, which puts materials online so that other people can access them more easily for their own research. He researched the buildings erected by the Public Works Administration from 1933-39 to see how many were still in existence. By the end of the internship, he had made about 300 entries of his own, identifying buildings all over the country. Eric was amazed by how many of these buildings are still in use today.
Eric went on to complete another prized internship opportunity in spring 2011: working at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. The most exciting part of the internship was the opportunity to speak to many individuals on the Museum’s staff, including the Director Dr. Brent Glass, to get more information about what directions he could take with his interests in public history. Part of Eric’s responsibilities at the Smithsonian included processing materials for the Scurlock Studio collection, whose photographs documented African American life in the Washington DC area throughout the 20th century. He also was involved in processing artifacts for the Meyer Later World War I collection: helping to organize it, describing artifacts properly and making them more accessible online. He enjoyed blogging about his experiences throughout the spring.
Eric really encourages students to take advantage of the great internship opportunities available at Daemen College – start simple and do multiple internships to work up to more demanding ones. He also advises students that a wide variety courses can help with internships. For him, obviously, his US History courses and US Government course gave him the background information for working at these sites, but coursework on state and local government also gave him insight on the effects of New Deal policies enacted during FDR’s administrations. Courses focusing on computer literacy were also essential in enabling him to work at these internships. He feels the internships also helped him with completing his senior thesis on US propaganda in WWII, as well as preparing him for a future career.
Having graduated in May, 2011, Eric decided to take some time off. He found that his internships really helped clarify what public historians and archivists do on a daily basis and, as a result, he's been accepted into the SUNY/Buffalo graduate program for library and information sciences for Fall 2012. He's also joined Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference in order to meet with other professional archivists. With the internship experiences, he’s had the opportunities to learn from the best in building his future.
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