The Strawbery Banke Museum provides visitors with a unique opportunity to experience hands-on history in the coastal town of Portsmouth, N.H. The museum consists of a neighborhood of more than 25 houses and historic buildings – many of which are nearly 300 years old – that are staffed by in-character historic performers in the South End neighborhood of Puddle Dock. The Strawbery Banke Museum is unique among so-called living history museums because it does not focus on a single era of history, but rather documents the transformation of the neighborhood from its original state in 1695 until the residents left in 1955.
This unique approach to preserving the past and the museum’s diverse range of exhibits inspired history major Eryn Boyce ’13 to apply for an internship at Strawbery Banke. As a Pennsylvania native, Boyce would have been unable to accept an unpaid internship in New Hampshire without the support of a stipend from the Richard and Patsy Couper Fund, which is administered by Hamilton’s Maurice Horowitch Career Center.
One of the Strawbery Banke Museum’s most important missions is education, so Boyce chose to intern with the museum’s summer camp program. Her internship involves far more than just camp counseling though – Boyce researches topics of history for the camp’s curriculum to cover, creates lesson plans and activities for campers and then leads the campers through the various stages of her lessons. She designs lessons for and counsels at three different camps, exposing children of multiple age groups to history ranging from the colonial period to the Victorian era and early 20th century.
The camps each use a different method to teach children about history in a fun and interactive way, ranging from role playing to hands on curatorial work. Because of this multi-tiered approach to educating children of different ages, Boyce has had to adapt her lesson plans to different educational topics, styles and audiences. She views teaching challenges positively, and remarked that she loves “teaching children about history and watching their enthusiasm come alive.” She hopes that by working with her students, she can pass on to them her enthusiasm “to preserve the museum and other historical sites for future generations.”
Boyce is also involved with the special events hosted by the museum after camp hours, the most exciting of which was the Passion for Fashion Gala. Strawbery Banke hosted a number of fashion designers, including Austin Scarlett of Project Runway fame, to showcase modern clothing designs based on the museum’s collection of historic clothing. It was Boyce’s first runway show, and she was thrilled at the opportunity to meet a number of celebrity fashion designers. The variety of the events and exhibits at the Strawbery Bank museum help to make work there diverse and exciting.
In addition to being a fulfilling and enjoyable summer experience, Boyce’s internship has also taught her a number of skills necessary to succeed in both academics and in museum work. She was taken aback by the enthusiasm and selflessness displayed by her supervisors at the museum, and remarked that the experience has taught her that “the most important parts of working in a museum are passion and a love for history.”
Boyce is a graduate of Germantown Academy (Pa.)