By Alison Curry, George Mason University
This is my second semester interning for the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. In my first semester, myself and the other interns from George Mason worked on cataloguing museums in the Caribbean. Due to the major hurricanes that hit the region in the early fall, many museums were at risk in the Caribbean. It was our task to discover as many museums in the Caribbean as we could and catalog various details about these sites. I, specifically, was tasked with finding and cataloguing museums in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, two of the most hard-hit regions in the Caribbean. I really enjoyed working on the Caribbean dataset because I felt as though I was contributing in helping this region after the hurricanes.
Now that we have finished working on the Caribbean dataset, we have been given the opportunity to work on the museum dataset of a region of our choice. Since my research has been focused on Polish history, I asked to work on Poland’s dataset or any other dataset in Eastern Europe. I was given the Poland dataset to clean up and finish. When I received the dataset, it was around eighty percent complete. My task is to finish up cataloguing the remaining museums in the dataset and clean up the entire dataset. This has been really wonderful so far, as I have such an interest in Polish history. I have been to many of the museums in this dataset and I get to learn about other museums in a country that I have been to many times.
Some of the staff of the SCRI suggested I purchase a book called 1,000 Museums of Poland to aid in working on the dataset. When first going through the book, I noticed a few museums in this book that were not on the Poland dataset. One of these was of particular interest to me because it’s a museum I have been to, and is an incredibly important museum in Poland. The Bełżec Memorial Site and Museum is the site of the Bełżec extermination camp from World War II. Besides containing a large memorial to Holocaust victims, the site also contains an excellent and informational museum. On my most recent trip to Poland, it was one of the most incredible places I visited. I’m glad I recognized that this site was not on the Poland dataset yet. While all the museums on this list are important, Bełżec Memorial Site and Museum is internationally-known and recognized.