When I enrolled in Johns Hopkins University’s AAP Museum Studies Master’s program, I never imagined I would be completing my final semester in the middle of a global pandemic. I will be completing the program in just four short weeks, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, those plans were almost pushed back nearly an entire year. My program has been entirely online, though I was supposed to attend an in-person seminar in Baltimore, Maryland that would have given me hands-on experience in several museums over the course of two weeks. This was cancelled mere days before I was supposed to make my trek from Providence to Baltimore, sending me into a panic as I tried frantically to work with my program director to readjust my plans and keep my August graduation date. Enter, Lippitt House Museum.
I am incredibly grateful that I have been able to intern remotely with Lippitt House. As a life-long resident of Rhode Island and a lover of Providence history, this experience has truly been a dream while the rest of the world feels more and more like a nightmare every time I turn on the news. But even so, this internship experience has forced me to grapple with some important, frightening questions. The world has changed seemingly overnight, and with that change comes uncertainty. What kind of a job market will I be entering upon graduation? What will museums look like in this “new normal” we’re faced with? But perhaps the most pressing question I’ve considered while completing my internship project is this: How can museums prepare for and survive a disaster like this? How can we operate safely, rethinking our exhibits and interactions to protect visitors, staff, and collections alike? Where do we, museums, fit into this new normal?