A life-changing internship experience, thanks to the Hagan family

We recently shared a blog post featuring Bette and Lindsey Hagan, the mother and daughter who through their generous support created the James Lollar Hagan Internship at the National Museum of American History. After talking to the Hagans, I also had the opportunity to interview the past two Hagan interns, Patri O'Gan and Leah Tams, who wanted to share their experience and thoughts about their time at the museum.

What led you to apply for the Hagan internship?
Patri: The internship was advertised as an opportunity to create an online resource for the museum's women's history collections. I have always had an interest in women's history, I studied library and information studies during my graduate program, and I have experience with Web design. The internship was a perfect combination of everything I had studied and been passionate about. I also talked with Camy Clough, the internship supervisor, and we agreed on the importance of this subject matter and bringing the museum's resources to a larger audience, and I was convinced this was a project I wanted to help bring to fruition.

Leah: I found the Hagan internship on the museum's Facebook page, and it was advertised as a project to organize the collections related to women in World War I into an online "object group." I applied because I had just completed my own digital history project on World War I at an all-women's college and it seemed like the perfect next step that aligned with my own interests and background.

What was your project as a Hagan intern?
Patri: My task was to meet with curators from every division within the museum and learn about what resources should be included. I focused on what was already online—objects, exhibitions, blog posts, podcasts—and began to plan the website. When I had a better understanding of what was to be included, I began to organize and categorize the resources, linking exhibitions to archival documents, and trying to create a fuller picture of our women's history collections.

With everything organized, I had the help of Amber Wilson, the summer intern in the Office of Programs and Strategic Initiatives, as well as the staff in the New Media Office, to create a beautiful website design, get the Women's History Resources Guide online, and make our resources available for the museum's online audience. I was also fortunate enough to write a four-part blog series called "Traveling for Suffrage" during my time as an intern, highlighting our collections and resources.

Leah: As I mentioned, my primary goal was to create an object group online titled Women in World War I. To accomplish this, I had to learn and better understand what "women's military history" meant within the museum's context. My supervisor, Margaret Vining, wanted to broaden the project by including objects from all Smithsonian museums to create a central resource center. I researched collections both online and in storage, reached out to museum staff about what objects to include, and assisted with researching, digitizing, labeling and photographing objects. When this was complete, I was able to then work on a frame for the website, which was developed into what is currently online.

Intern wearing gloves holds two buttons

How did this internship prepare you for your next steps?
Patri: I am currently a project assistant in the museum's Division of Armed Forces History and I am now processing an archive of women's military history. I am highlighting women's involvement in and interaction with the military, not just as soldiers, but in various support roles too dating back to the Civil War. Although women were only fairly recently allowed to be official members of the military, throughout history they have played significant roles as civilian volunteers, military spouses, nurses, and more. I am working with curator Margaret Vining to compile the papers, photos, and more into a meaningful structure that will eventually be available to the public as an online finding aid called the Division of Armed Forces History Women's Military History Collection with the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives.

Leah: I just started as an independent contractor at an archive in Washington, D.C., so this internship absolutely helped secure this position. I am going to be helping the head of digital operations and working with collections, documenting objects, and working on digitization. I would not have been given such an amazing opportunity had I not had the experience at the museum.

Intern Leah Tams

What are your overall thoughts about your internship experience?
Patri: I cannot thank Lindsey and Bette enough. The Hagan internship was truly a life-changing experience for me and because of it I moved to Washington, was hired by the museum, and have worked with the talented museum staff. I hope I have made the Hagans proud by creating a meaningful project around women's history, and it is so important to me that the work will reach new audiences around the world.

Leah: I echo Patri's thoughts, as I cannot thank the Hagans enough. My internship was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where I could expand my interests, share my passion for history, and make a visible contribution to the museum. Also, I have to say the highlight was being able to meet Bette during my internship, getting to know her, and now, being able to share my finished product with the Hagans and the museum's online audience.

Bette and Lindsey's passion for history and the museum inspired them to create the Hagan Internship, which provided the essential funding to work with individuals like O'Gan and Tams so the museum can preserve its national treasures. Learn more about the Hagan internship opportunity. To learn more about how to create opportunities like this, contact Lauren Collette, Office of External Affairs, at ColletteL@si.edu.