American Intern’s Experience at the Bahrain National Museum

Hear from Danielle in her own words…

 

I decided to come to Bahrain because I found the posting for the internship at just the right time.  I was at the end of a contract job and looking for the next step in furthering my professional career.  I love traveling and learning about new cultures.  The chance to intern at the National Museum of Bahrain allowed me to do both.

It has been a wonderful decision to come to Bahrain for the internship because I really have gotten to develop my collections care, handling, and registration skills.  This has been even more challenging and better at adapting skills that I had learned and practiced in the United States because there are challenges here in the field that were new, like finding archivally safe material (or trying to create them) that also fit within a budget.  I have learned to adapt my formal training to fit into real life settings.  I have also gotten the chance to become more confident in my decision making and recommendations for best practice with the support of an encouraging supervisor and other welcoming staff members.

There were only a few moments of homesickness that really centered on the holidays at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is when my extended family usually gets together for a big meal.  The good news is that I was able to talk to my family and friends back home via texts, phone calls, and video chats.  It really helped that I received invitations to join a colleague for the holidays and planned my own dinner with some friends here in Bahrain.

Settling in to life in Bahrain was not too much of a challenge.  It helps that as part this internship, I received guidance in getting everyday necessities and have a support system to contact if I do happen to need anything.  Making friends is always a new challenge, but I was able to make friends with some of the Fulbright scholars with a shared interest in sightseeing and cultural events.

I would advise someone going into a similar internship to keep an open mind and say yes to as many opportunities as possible.  Since, I have been here, I have gotten to enjoy some amazing historical sites, concerts of traditional and modern music, local culture during some fairs and cultural exhibitions, invitations to the home of the US ambassador for different receptions, meeting expats at the various country and sport clubs, and living like a local in a new country.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of my time at the museum was being here for the installation of an exhibit on loan from Saudi Arabia.  Working with the collection and doing the evaluation and reports on these items was a wonderful chance to see some of the material culture firsthand.  The team that came with this collection were wonderful to work with, learning about their careers and professional experience, and being present for the installation to see everyone work together and complete the visually stunning exhibit was great.

A second highlight from this opportunity has been the chance to develop my professional confidence.  I have had training for the various aspects of collections care and museum practice with work and internships, but this was a chance to really become more confident with these skills at the National Museum full time for six months.  Also, since my time here focused on registration and improvement of collection storage, this was a slightly different aspect than some of my previous training, I have become more adept at creating storage and support for objects.

Another highlight of this experience is the location.  This has been an amazing introduction to a new geographical area for me.  Most of my travels have been in Europe and New Zealand, so finding myself in the Middle East for six months has been a good way to learn about the culture, meet some very wonderful, welcoming people, and explore the landscape and sights in this region.

There have been several challenges for me while interning at the museum, which have since been overcome.  Sadly, my injury before arrival did become a significant challenge.  Thankfully, I had wonderful support from colleagues and friends.  We were able to adapt duties at the museum so that I could participate and learn as much as possible until I was back on my feet.  This challenge has also helped to educate me on museum accessibility and making sure that people with mobility challenges are able to make the most of their visit to the museum.  I am now well on the mend and am back to work as usual.

Challenges faced at the museum itself usually centered on supplies and learning to find unconventional or other solutions.  This is the first time that I was aware of and included in budget discussions for a department and asked to help in finding a solution.  This was a challenge, but it is also a new skill.