Up Close and Personal with History

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Shea Tarnow, COL ’19

Through Penn, I received funding which allowed me the ability to pursue an internship that has only sparked my motivation to work in a community which is not my own as well provided me with an opportunity to get up close and personal with a history I had only ever read about.

I spent the summer working an internship at Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD) in Germantown Pennsylvania through their Deaf Culture Heritage Center (DCHC). PSD is the second oldest Deaf school in the nation and is a location of which I have learned much about through my classes in the Sign Language department at Penn. While I have been on their campus prior and gone to events hosted by organizations involved with this school, I was provided a unique opportunity working in the DCHC that allowed me to see primary sources and firsthand examples of events and concepts I had only ever discussed and learned about in the academic setting.

The Deaf Culture Heritage Center at PSD is somewhat of a museum of artifacts and document donations provided by alumni and collected throughout the history of the school. They hold and show these pieces and keep a record of the institution’s past in a way that works to provide people who are interested in access to these resources. An exciting piece of this, personally, is that they are currently in a developmental stage in which they are working to alter their presentation as well as start digitizing their collection to provide an online resource as well as better conserve the documents. This internship allowed me to personally handle incredibly old documents and school memorabilia as well as interact with alumni, administration, and preservation experts.

Working under two women who were so incredibly passionate about their work and involved, one even personally, with this history allowed me to gain an experience I would not have otherwise. It provided many conversations revolving around the goals for the future of DCHC as well as the various features they had noticed when visiting different museums and archives allowing our end goal for the project to be very much an ever-changing and impressionable concept. Given this fact, it also meant that my thoughts and opinions were greatly considered

Currently, one thing that much of their focus is on is the upcoming Bicentennial Celebration of Pennsylvania School for the Deaf happening in 2020. This is a weekend-long event inviting alumni and supporters of PSD to Philadelphia to celebrate 200 years of education. Because they expect a great number of people to be on the campus during this time, there is a large effort to make sure the DCHC is at its most organized and modernized version in order to allow a greater immersion into the institution’s history.

What I gained from this experience is one that I am grateful for and that sparked my curiosity and interest in a community I had only, up until then, been sitting outside of. I learned a more extensive history of an amazing institution and the past political ins and outs of the campus as well as was able to see firsthand how the history of the time affected the school and students it held the responsibility of educating.

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