Post 1 — Maps, Music, and Museums

This summer, I’m equal parts invested in and intrigued by my opportunity to work for the New Orleans Jazz Museum. The Museum is a state-run institution located in the historic French Quarter district of New Orleans dedicated to celebrating the history of Jazz through educational workshops, live performances, and exhibits. At the same time, the Jazz Museum is home to the Louisiana Historical Center (LHC), the largest archive on the history of Louisiana stretching from the colonial period to now. As a history student with an interest in museum studies and public history, I believe that the Jazz Museum is a perfect place to intern in order to learn about how a museum organizes and develops its public-facing programs.

As an intern, my work is split between the Museum and the LHC, with the two areas comprising fairly distinct work within these first three weeks. Within the Museum, I most often find myself writing & collecting copy, creating marketing materials, and editing and updating Museum reports. Although I’m not currently creating one large cohesive project, this kind of work demonstrates how many avenues the Museum ends up exploring. Because of this, the Museum values succinct and widely applicable descriptions and explanations of events and material that can be edited and shared across multiple platforms and documents to reduce the need to rewrite and reinvent constantly. In the future, I will be working with multiple staff members and interns on designing material for the NOLA River Festival, a festival designed to celebrate the role of the Mississippi in New Orleans’ life.

Over this summer, I want to explore how my writing and organizational skills transfer to museum work along with how I can build new skills. Sometimes the work environment is chaotic in the Museum with so many different people being pulled into new projects, and I’m hoping to learn new ways to track project development.

Within the LHC, my primary project at the moment is a comprehensive inventory of the LHC’s maps. With maps being sent to new collections, exhibits, and other museums, it is essential that the LHC has full knowledge of the status and whereabouts of all its material. To this end, I am going through multiple flat files of maps and comparing the maps found within to the maps listed on the Center’s finding aids, tools used by researchers, librarians, and archivists to easily locate documents. While this job is not particularly flashy, it is absolutely crucial as this kind of survey of the map collection has not been performed since 2011. As of this blog’s writing, I have recorded information on around 400 maps, and I am hardly a quarter of the way done. In many ways the work is solitary, but it also means that I get to spend two days a week recording information about some really fascinating maps. I think the most important question I want to begin to answer over this internship is “how do you make material found in museums and archives more accessible to researchers and the public physically and virtually?”

One of the Fascinating Maps in Question- Credit to the Louisiana Historical Center
An example Finding Aid that I am currently updating- Credit to the Louisiana Historical Center