Summer Rewind

Looking back on Katja's time as the 2023 UAM Summer Intern.

I have sadly reached the final weeks of my internship with the University of Alberta Museums following a crazy few months. In July, I spent two weeks in the Bohdan Medwidsky Ukrainian Folklore Archives (BMUFA), working on accessioning and digitizing family photo albums (more about my work will be in the BMUFA Fall Newsletter). I then went straight to the Canadian Ice Core Lab (CICL), where I worked with the laboratory analyst Anne Myers to organize ice cores in the archive freezer. At the end of August I wrapped-up my internship with work in one final collection, the Dentistry Museum Collection, where I helped install the exhibition set to open alongside the Geoffrey and Robyn Sperber Health Sciences Library in the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA) this fall. 

The Canadian Ice Core Lab was one of my favourite collections I worked in during this internship. The Ice Core Lab contains over 1 kilometer of ice cores, which are collected primarily from the Canadian Arctic, and other regions in Canada such as Mount Logan in Yukon. Ice cores are collected and studied to gain a greater understanding of climate change. Since some of the cores are drilled hundreds of meters down, they can be used to analyze global climates of the past, as well as the present. 

The cores are stored in a massive freezer, called the archive freezer, which is kept at a balmy -36°C. Attached to the archive freezer is the lab workspace, filled with woodworking tools and tables used to cut the cores for processing. This freezer was -25°C, which was often a relief from the extreme cold of the archive freezer. Most of my time in the collection was spent helping put ice cores into new tubes, organizing them on shelves, and moving boxes. This led into my next project, which was importing lab notes into eLab. The lab notes are used to create QR code labels to be used on each tube, and makes important details (such as depth of the core) of each core available in an instant when scanned. 

One of the strangest parts of working in the Ice Core Lab was the extreme environment. I was wearing snow pants and a winter coat in the middle of July, and frequently took breaks to warm up my hands. Even though the conditions were more challenging than other collections, I already miss it! 

As the summer draws to a close, I’ve been thinking back to February when I first decided to apply for this internship. The hours I spent trying to perfect my essay, the thrill of getting the interview, the excitement of receiving the call that came in early April asking me to come and work in a month's time. 

And here I am, five months later. I’ve worked with freshwater invertebrates, rank badges, family photo albums and meter long pieces of ice. I’ve sorted through U of A archives, completed condition reports, and made mounts for historic dental tools. 

But I think that the people have been the best part of this experience. 

Every curator, assistant, and staff member who I have worked with has been integral to my experience. All have been incredibly kind and willing to accommodate me for the short periods I spent in each collection. I especially want to thank Jennifer Bowser and Jill Horbay, my wonderful supervisors, who have prioritized my experience above all and ensured that I worked in a safe, positive environment. I have learned so much about museums and about myself; I feel much more sure in my decision to pursue a career in museums. 

So what’s next? This Fall I will be entering my fourth and final year here at the University of Alberta studying Clothing, Textiles, and Material Culture. This internship has introduced me to so many incredible people across campus, and I am very thankful to have met them before I graduate university. 

I cannot recommend this experience enough to anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in museums. I have been able to experience a wide range of collections, doing very different projects in each one, as well as projects in the office. This summer has been a whirlwind, but a very enjoyable one! I will certainly miss my time spent with UAM. 

Thank you for following along this summer! If you are interested in applying for 2024, check out the UAM Summer Internship page on the UAM website!