As students here at Hopkins and around the area returned to school this week, long-separated friends no doubt greeted each other with the tried-and-true query, “What did you do over your summer vacation?” We at the Johns Hopkins University Museums, would like to highlight the summer experience of one Baltimore City Public Schools senior in particular: J’Naya Harris. As the museums’ 2021 Bloomberg Arts Intern, J’Naya spent six weeks working with museum staff to experience a sampling of the work that is performed by both curatorial and operational staff at the museums. While, COVID precautions prevented J’Naya from being onsite, she still was able to learn much about the skills and knowledge needed in the museum profession. We’ll let her explain. Take it away, J’Naya!    

Picture of J'Naya Harris smiling and holding up two fingers in a peace sign. Image courtesy of J'Naya Harris

My name is J’Naya Harris, and I am a senior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. This summer, I was an intern in the Bloomberg Arts Internship (BAI) program, and I had the opportunity to work at John Hopkins University’s Homewood Museum and Evergreen Museum & Library. I had a great experience working with the museums, as I had a strong support system to help me through.

During my first week, I had a chance to meet some of the museum’s staff members, and ask them any questions that I may have had. They were very kind, and shared a great deal of information with me about their roles working at the museum. I also took a virtual tour of Evergreen that week, and Homewood the following week.

After getting to know everyone, and getting a feel for the work environment, my following weeks were spent working on my project. My main task was to come up with creative content that would interest a younger audience (ages 18-24), which is the typical age of some of the students that attend the university. I worked with my supervisors, Ms. Jeannette [Marxen, Museum Coordinator at Evergreen] and Ms. Barbara [St. Ours, Museum Coordinator at Homewood], to come up content that I would be able to create. They gave me freedom to align my ideas, and supported me when necessary.

I decided to write scripts that focused on telling the story of the families that inhabited these historic houses, the objects, and the rooms of the house. Other content that I created were poems and fake “text messages” from the 1800’s. Ms. Barbara had the idea that I should create “text messages” that feature dialogue used by the Carrolls [of Homewood] and the Garretts [of Evergreen]. We thought that it would be a pretty funny idea.

I put all of my content into one document on Canva, except for the text messages because they were created on slides. Canva was the best place to put my work because everything could fit into one place for a whole presentation. I spent two weeks researching the families and objects through readings, videos, primary documents, and the Homewood and Evergreen books. Having a lot to work with really helped me because anything that I could have possibly needed to complete the project was right there in my hands.

Among the things that I learned during my time working at the museums are: the importance of museums, parts of Baltimore’s history, what a millennial audience enjoys, information about enslaved individuals’ experiences in Baltimore, the roles of people who work in museums, and, of course, about the lives of the Carroll and Garrett families. Learning about these things helped me not only with my project, but with my understanding of the history that surrounds me in the very place that I live, yet had no idea about. Learning about this history inspired me to want to study African American history further in the future. I want to explore and understand more about the life of enslaved individuals. I have developed some essential skills over the summer that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Working at JHU museums has helped me enhance my writing and researching skills, practice networking, develop better communication skills, and develop time management skills. Together, these skills have helped me become more mature overall. I had to take responsibility and come up with the best way to complete everything in a timely manner.

Interning at the JHU museums has been very fun and informative. I have had the opportunity to learn so much, network with many people, create amazing content, and gain some valuable skills. My supervisors, Ms. Barbara and Ms. Jeannette have been very kind and supportive to me. I truly appreciate everything, and will take everything that I have gained from this summer with me forever.