Monday, May 23, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Jalyn

Jalyn: The Field Museum in Chicago

I work at the very top of the Field Museum's gargantuan building. The first two floors are dedicated to exhibits, and there are a number of subterranean floors for administrative offices and a massive collection of artifacts - which I am going to see in two weeks at a real life "Night at the Museum" event! The third floor of the museum is where the 200+ scientists have their offices and labs, and it looks just like a university history department, complete with big wooden doors on all the offices and corny photocopied Far Side comics taped to the windows. The fourth floor is tucked into the roof of the museum, and that's where exhibitions development is. Most of us work in lofts - which is awesome - because any normal floorspace is set aside for actually constructing the exhibits. So instead of windows we have skylights! We also have windows into the very top of Stanley Field Hall, which is the main hall of the museum around which the rest of the building is centred. On Fridays they invite choirs and bands to play in the hall, and this Friday I got treated to a choir and a big band for a few hours without having to leave my desk!

Right now almost everyone is working on a new permanent exhibition called Restoring Earth, which opens in November. It focuses on conservation and explains what scientists at the museum do around the world, as well as what local people are doing in the Chicagoland community. I'm mainly working on a touchscreen interactive, but since I don't have one particular supervisor I'm free to loan myself out to help on other cool projects (there's a new Egypt hall just getting started!).

I spend my days doing anything from research on a topic for a new exhibit, to testing prototypes with visitors, and everything in between. The "everything in between" parts are a lot of searching for cool stories to tell about the people, places, and things featured in exhibits, and then finding good photos and videos of them to go along with those stories. I most enjoy writing content for the exhibits, but I find getting visitors to test the prototypes is the most interesting part. Designing exhibits is like a crash course in psychology. We always have set questions to ask visitors, to see if we've designed the exhibit well, but it's more often observing the visitor interaction with the exhibit that reveals the most interesting results. I love getting feedback from visitors, and heading back to the drawing board to make the exhibit even better!

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