World’s largest living-history museum offers hands-on experience for museum studies major

Rising sophomore Nyree Dowdy ’21 had a plan this summer: to get experience that mattered.

In May, the museum studies major participated in the selective Mellon Summer Academy at the High Museum in Atlanta. Then, back in her native state of Virginia, Dowdy searched for an opportunity related to her future career field—and found the perfect summer job as a Colonial Williamsburg camp counselor.

Nyree Dowdy ’21, top left, with some of the campers and other counselors at Colonial Williamsburg.

“This position will assist me in the future because it is allowing me to get more in-depth experience in the history field,” said Dowdy. “I am learning more about how research is conducted, how to be as authentic to the past as possible, and how to then share that information with others.”

At Colonial Williamsburg, Dowdy works with elementary and middle school children, helping them experience 18th century colonial culture. She teaches the campers about the history of the city and shows them what life would have been like during that time. Some of the activities she’s led include making stitch books and cartridges like those used during the Revolutionary War. Not only does Dowdy share fun activities with the children, she also spends time preparing for the lessons by researching the history and culture of the time.

“…My favorite part is learning more about Williamsburg and the lives of those who lived here,” Dowdy said. “I appreciate the way in which multiple perspectives are presented; Williamsburg shares what life was like for all kinds of people from women to Native Americans to free and enslaved blacks and more. I enjoy sharing the information I have learned with the campers and seeing their eyes light up with a new fact that they can then share.”

One day, Dowdy plans to work as either a curator or historian, and this experience has shaped her career goals further.

“I just know I enjoy doing research and learning more about what life was like in different times and for different people,” explained Dowdy. “Although not a traditional museum, Colonial Williamsburg is considered a living museum. My particular area of interest is in public history museums; I am interested in how perspectives shape the way information is presented to the public.”

“I hope that this position will springboard me into other positions like it that will give me the chance to work in this field,” she continued. “I love history and I want to continue to share that love with others. It is one my first steps into following my dream.”

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