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What is it like to be a AAA Summer Intern?

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August 9, 2019

An update from 2019 AAA Intern Sylvia Wilson:

Hi! I’m Sylvia Wilson, an intern with the AAA and Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. I’m from Dallas, Texas and just graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in Anthropology and French, and could not be happier to be putting both of my majors to use this summer. My research interests include: education, heritage, public culture, sensory ethnography, the American West, politics of representation, reproductive justice, and the carceral state. I plan on earning a PhD in Anthropology with the eventual goal of teaching in a university or doing applied work in a museum.

I have been in DC for a month now, filling my free time with tons of museum visits—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The beauty, history, and diversity of the city make DC a dream for the curious mind. Whether I’m exploring a new neighborhood, walking the halls of an art gallery, rushing through the metro station on my morning commute, or hanging out at my local library, I am constantly challenged and inspired by the people, architecture, and rhythm of the city.

While at the AAA offices, I am working on increasing anthropology education in K-12 classrooms and researching the discipline’s presence in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In my time at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, I am working on the Benin program for next year’s Folklife Festival. My current projects include creating educational materials for educators to teach about subjects explored through the Benin program and producing blog posts for the Festival website. I just wrote an article about Beninois music in the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings collection! The photograph corresponding with this post features gourds, which can be used as a rhythm instruments among many other uses. In my article on the music of Benin, I discuss how among the Fulani people in Northern Benin, the flute and calabash gourd is the most common instrument combination.

I cannot fully express how much I have learned during the first few weeks of my internship. Before this summer, I knew little about Benin beyond being able to locate it on a map. Now, my days are spent discussing the ins-and-outs of Vodun ritual and influence, the sights and sounds of the country, and the dynamic history of the region. At the AAA, I have taken a dive into the world of quantitative data management and analysis, and have had a blast challenging myself beyond the basics in Excel. I have grown professionally and intellectually more than I could have predicted and am immeasurably grateful for this opportunity.



An update from 2019 AAA Intern Alex Seeman:

My name is Alex Seeman and I’m interning at the Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) at the Navy Yard in DC! I was born and raised in Silver Spring, MD and have spent my life exploring DC before moving 300 miles north to Amherst, MA for college at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I stumbled upon the field of anthropology as a Natural Resource Conservation major, fascinated by looking at how human action impacted the environment throughout different cultures and time periods. Through anthropology I was exposed to archaeology and was immediately hooked—who wouldn’t be after interacting with artifacts someone had created decades ago?

No internship could’ve combined my passions better than this one. I get to spend time with the amazing folks at the American Anthropological Association before heading to the Navy Yard and working with the brilliant folks there. With the UAB I’ve had the chance to take my first ever boat ride onto the Anacostia River as well as inventory countless artifacts from the CSS Georgia—everything from glass to lead grapeshots! (There’s a reason we wear steel-toe boots in the lab). The UAB is preparing to do a survey project later in the year in the Great Lakes region and a big part of my work has been reading Coast Guard logs and looking for coordinates of aircraft crashes that have now been submerged for over 70 years. Time has been going by quickly and I’m trying to cherish all of the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met before I head back to school at the end of August, but my work is still going and there are many tasks still to be done!

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