Melissa Webb of GSU enjoys interning at Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Submitted by Melissa Webb (Georgia State University Anthropology Department)

Georgia State University, spring semester 2010, I interned at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta, Georgia. From the beginning, I had no clue what to expect from the experience, much less what sort of projects and duties I would work with. I was just extremely excited to be involved with archaeology, the field I had been studying for the past three years. I followed the proper channels with the anthropology department at Georgia State, emailed Dennis Blanton at Fernbank and before I knew it, I was an intern at the museum.

For me, the first week was filling out paperwork, introductions, and general preliminary stuff that comes along with any new job. The second week the other interns and I walked into the lab to find pottery sherds laid out on the lab tables. Dennis began explaining were they came from and after about the fifth time I heard him say “sherd” I finally asked Rachel, Dennis’ lab assistant, “Why does he keep saying sherd?” Rachel just smiled and said, “That’s what they are called. Not shards of pottery, but sherds.” I’m sure she has been asked that a lot.

After a few weeks of learning to clean, label, and mend sherds, the interns were given individual assignments. Mine was to help catalog the Saint Catherine’s Island bead collection that had just been shipped to Fernbank from the American Museum if Natural History in New York. Once cataloged, I was to construct a reference collection of the beads. Cataloging the beads was no easy task and it consumed the bulk of my internship. Rachel and I worked for three months opening boxes filled with bags of beads, making sure that every bead was accounted for, and entering them into an electronic catalog.

With two weeks left of my internship, we finished cataloging all the beads. It was finally time for what I had been waiting for; making the reference collection. In my opinion, things went rather smoothly. I really enjoyed stringing and tagging each individual bead. The last few beads I strung were some very delicate gold gilded beads. I had been expecting Dennis or Rachel to string those and was slightly shocked when Dennis asked me to string them and walked into his office. I was impressed at the amount of trust he had in me.

I am glad I had the opportunity to intern at Fernbank. I was really impressed with the whole experience. I learned so much from Dennis and Rachel and will never forget the time I spent in the lab. I must say that this internship was easily the single best experience I had during my undergraduate studies at GSU and I am deeply thankful to Fernbank and Dennis for the wonderful opportunity.