- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 24, 2016

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - A handful of college students are getting firsthand history lessons at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site, which launched a student internship program in the spring.

“Years ago, they had an internship program with previous curators,” said Reneé Slider, cultural resource specialist. “That was here, and it did well, and then it kind of dwindled. When I started last year that was one of the things that I wanted to do - I wanted to offer internships to the history department, to the American studies department, for students.”

While the internships are unpaid, students can receive college credit for their work. The most valuable aspect of the program, Slider said, is being able to impart her knowledge to students interested in museum work - and teaching them there’s more to museums than what meets the eye.

“There’s a lot of stuff that you do in the background as far as dealing with the public, exhibits, events and the planning and the preparation that goes into that,” Slider said.

“A lot of times, what they’re learning in school is just out of books, and this is actual, real world experience. And everything that they’re learning here is something that they can take back to put on their resume and also use in jobs that they apply for.”

This summer, the program has two interns: Curtis Leon, a history student at California State University-San Bernardino, and Lizzy Cardenas, a University of Wyoming history student.

“We help out everywhere around here,” Leon said. “So, that was one of the things to get used to, life at the museum, ‘cause there’s never really a day off for them.”

His work includes contributing research to the museum’s Living History project in which actors bring convicts’ stories to life through live performances.

“I’m doing research on the convicts for an interpretive script, so that people can come in here as volunteers and act as one of the past convicts,” Leon said. “So, Living History is so people can come here and see and experience the history, not just read about it on a plaque.”

Working at the territorial prison has been the best internship he’s had so far, he said.

“I’ve never been a part of any museum with living history going on, especially in this way,” he said. “I’ve only read about stuff like this. So, coming here and actually experiencing it and being a part of it and learning how to do it - it’s all of those mixed up in one.”

Cardenas said her role involves creating a social media presence for the site, such as taking SnapChats of different parts of the prison, and she is currently working on a research project involving social media use in museums.

“One museum does Twitter every four hours,” she said. “I did not know they put that much work into it.”

One of the best parts of working at the territorial prison is the unique layout and flow of the facilities, she said.

“I like I can take as much time as I want,” she said. “You can walk through it in 45 minutes, or you can do hours. There’s so much to see every time I come here.”

The museum plans to hire two University of Wyoming students for the fall semester, Slider said. Those interns will help organize the site archives and continue work on the Living History scripts, including research on events outside Wyoming.

“When the convicts are talking about being here they can reference something going on in history,” Slider said.

“So, it helps people that are coming here kind of place it in United States history, in a broader picture.”


Information from: Laramie Boomerang, https://www.laramieboomerang.com

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