Students discover stimulating internship opportunities through CNU’s public history program.

Like Jessica Eichlin (’14) of Harrisonburg, Virginia, many Captains choose CNU because of the sense of community at the University. “I only visited once, but I knew after one day that CNU was the school for me,” she says.

CNU’s inclusive community offered Eichlin the chance to make the most of her college experience, both in and out of the classroom. A history major, she was a member of CNU’s Honors Program and of Alpha Phi Omega, the co-ed national service fraternity, which led her to volunteer at The Mariners’ Museum Library, the largest maritime collection in the Western Hemisphere. After working in the Library for over a year, she moved to the museum proper and began an internship at the USS Monitor Center conservation lab, an opportunity she found through the Department of History’s Public History Program. The Monitor was the U.S. Navy’s first ironclad warship; it memorably fought the confederate ironclad Virginia in the Battle of Hampton Roads during the Civil War. It was discovered in nearby waters, and conservators at the lab are attempting to preserve the remains.

Associate Professor of History Sheri Shuck-Hall, who directs the Public History Program, supervised Eichlin’s summer internship in the lab. She says the program trains students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in their lives beyond the University, whether in a museum or an archaeological site. Shuck-Hall says Eichlin has done extraordinary work in the museum, discovering valuable artifacts such as a key and a human bone. “History majors like Jessica learn outside the classroom by not only understanding how history can be practically applied, but also by making an impact on how the public understands our nation’s history,” Shuck-Hall says.

Eichlin aided staff members with various projects in the museum’s conservation lab, and her main responsibility was building durable storage boxes for Monitor artifacts. She also assisted with surveys, photographing and documenting various materials from the ship, such as wood, bone and rope. “I spent 140 hours cataloging documents connected to Isaac Newton Jr., the first engineer on the Monitor, right next door to the engines he worked on every day,” she says. “The experience was really neat and gave me a wide range of historical background information.”

“The Monitor not only tells us about what happened in the past, but also speaks great volumes to human ingenuity,” Eichlin says. That ingenuity has inspired Eichlin to pursue further museum research, either in a collection or by attending graduate school for museum studies, specializing in archiving or curating. Though she has left CNU, she says she will always remember her time as a Captain fondly. “I cannot imagine going somewhere else because CNU truly is home.” – Laura Faragalli ’15

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