Anna Rusk at Shriver House Museum

Anna at the Shriver House As part of my Gettysburg Semester experience, I interned at the Shriver House Museum in Gettysburg, a house museum that tells the civilian story of the Battle of Gettysburg. My two main responsibilities were giving tours of the house, in period dress, and developing a lesson plan to be used by schools before they take field trips to the museum. However, interns have taken many different angles in the past; Nancie, the director, is incredibly fun to work with and allows lots of flexibility in terms of the actual shape of the internship itself.

Though the wide variety of jobs Nancie gave me were all enjoyable, what I liked most was giving tours. The house has been restored to its original appearance, and furnished with period furniture from cellar to attic; thirty-minute tours take visitors through all four floors to tell the story of the Shrivers in particular and the civilian aspects of the Civil War era in general. It took me a few weeks of walking through the house and reading the script to myself to feel comfortable, but once I gave my first tour I was completely in love with it. I took visitors through every room in the house, which was built in 1860 and housed sharpshooters during the fighting in July of 1863. As we walked through the house, I told the story of Hettie Shriver and her two daughters, who witnessed the battle while their husband and father George was away fighting. Along the way, I explained the various aspects of daily life for a young, well-to-do family in Gettysburg, right down to the details of where they got their food and who emptied the chamber pots. As a long-time Civil War reenactor, it was amazing to be able to wear my period clothes on a daily basis, walking back and forth to the museum along historic streets in my hoopskirt (and trying to answer LOTS of tourist questions about where to eat along the way!). Giving tours in period costume really makes you feel like you're a part of the house and everything that has happened there. 

 My lesson plan project consisted of developing a series of activities that would prepare elementary through high-school students for a tour of the museum. I worked on creating a curriculum to help the students familiarize themselves with the civilian aspects of the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg in particular, as well as give them a brief introduction to the Shriver family and their home before they arrived at the museum. I selected excerpts from Gettysburg women's diaries and photographs of the town and the house for students to examine, created questions asking them to study primary and secondary sources, and designed activities that allowed them to imagine they were growing up in Gettysburg and witnessed the battle themselves.  Anna
Anna in the Shriver Garden  My other jobs were no less enjoyable and provided some nice variety in my weeks at the museum. Nancie and I designed a display to show visitors exactly what the 165,000 soldiers, 2,400 civilians, and zero toilets in Gettysburg in July of 1863 look like using seed beads and glass cylinders. I did lots of math, and actually counted all 2,400 civilians by hand before deciding that weighing out the rest would be a lot easier. Another one of our larger projects was weeding, replanting, and improving the kitchen garden behind the house, which included laying hundreds of bricks and the breaking of a pitchfork in an attempt to remove a stubborn perennial. I also helped decorate the museum for the holidays and took visitors on candlelight tours which, in addition to the original story, also talked about 1860s Christmas traditions.

I definitely enjoyed my time at the Shriver House; it solidified my desire to work in the museum sector of public history, leading me to declare a much-debated museum studies minor at my home school of Beloit College. I have always had a dream of starting my own living history museum, so this gave me a more concrete sense of what such things entail, and only stoked the fire of my enthusiasm to pursue it. My internship added so much to my experience here, and I'm very glad I had the opportunity to work with the Shriver House.