Intern Update

Intern Update: Ali Smith

Summer 2012 intern Ali Smith in Chinatown, D.C.

How do I even begin to describe my time with the Smithsonian this summer? Three words: enlightening, challenging and inspiring. Interning at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program this summer was a truly rewarding experience. From the engaging institution-wide intern events to daily activity in the Asian Pacific American Program office, every aspect of my experience at the Smithsonian deepened my appreciation for museum work and confirmed my passion for Asian American History.

During my internship, I was thrilled to have had the chance to not only assist with fundraising for HomeSpun but also learn about the process of planning a traveling exhibition by working on Sweet & Sour with Noriko Sanefuji. I gained valuable experience participating in the planning meetings, discussing content and structure with Noriko and Cedric Yeh, and researching potential images to capture the themes of the exhibition. By helping with this exhibition, I not only learned more about Chinese American Immigration History and food (topics I am already very passionate about), but also challenged myself to think critically about questions and themes that would provide the best lens for examining this important subject. I feel that working on this project taught me to think about historical research in new ways that will hopefully position me to become a more effective researcher and writer.

My favorite external event from this summer would have to be the private tour of the new exhibition at the National Archives, Attachments: Faces and Stories from America’s Gates. While I had already encountered some of the stories highlighted in the exhibition in previous research, engaging with the curator and hearing his thoughts behind the structure and concepts of the exhibition was very interesting. I was also very pleased at the complex issues the exhibition brought to the surface as well as the diversity of its subjects; I felt that the content and the structure contributed to the national narrative surrounding citizenship, and both immigration and exclusion at America’s “gates.”

In addition to all of the exciting happenings in the office and around the city, I was also very excited to have had the opportunity to dive into my research on D.C.’s Chinatown and the history of Chinese American activism. Being in D.C. for the summer with the Smithsonian enabled me to get more involved with the community, both by volunteering and attending community events and meetings, an aspect of my internship that has critically informed my individual research.

As my time at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program comes to a close and I reflect upon my experience, I think that I have matured professionally and academically. My experience and growth would not have been possible without the support and guidance from all of the staff and interns at APAP. Thank you for your encouragement and friendship!

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