Interning at Museums in Tallahassee: an Interview with Ana Luyanda (FSU History BA 2024)

Wed, 05/01/24
Ana Luyanda

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I get asked frequently where my interests in history and museum studies come from. It all started in elementary school. I went to a museum magnet school in Miami. We went on field trips to museums, to study the exhibits and receive instruction outside of the classroom. I received a solid foundation in historical appreciation at that school.

When my parents saw my interest in history and museums, they included something historical to visit whenever we traveled. It could be Ripley’s, or it could be the Louvre. Something that would open my eyes.

Age eight or nine, I became a collector. This is my favorite fun fact about myself. I started collecting World War 2 propaganda postcards. That’s how long I have loved history. During middle school, I stepped back a little bit, trying to be cool, but my love kicked back in during COVID. I realized that this is what I want to do and be.

I decided to come to FSU when I was in middle school. I was in the choir, and we did a tour performing at different universities in the south. When I set foot on FSU’s campus, it was like a bell rang out – the weather was perfect, the campus was beautiful, it wasn’t too far from home. Then I saw all the students hanging out on Landis green, and I wanted to do that too.

Now I am one of those people. I have a hammock, and I love going on Landis with my friends and just sitting there. We study, we talk, and we get food. There is always something going on. It’s just lovely.

What internships are you involved in right now?

I have two internships this spring.

One is at the Museum of Florida History, in their Education Department. As the museum is currently closed, I do a lot of outreach activities, especially with children. The second Saturday of every month, we go to local libraries and bring history to the children there. We read to them, present a short lecture with visual support, and then do a craft activity – all on a specific topic. I have been working with another person from the education department, and with every meeting, I have been able to do more. From just observing to facilitating to organizing and running the whole event.

For the Tallahassee Bicentennial, I decided to devote one Second Saturday meeting to maps and map making. I am going to have the children design their own maps. They can choose one of three designs to make: an ancient map to which can be added sea monsters, a pirate ship, and a compass; a street map of Tallahassee in which they can place their own home and those of their friends; or a theme park map to which they can add a Ferris wheel or a circus tent. It struck me that when kids today see maps, it is either on their phone or in a theme park.

I am also working at the new Union Bank Museum which is a part of the Museum of Florida History. I lead tours and interpret the space for our visitors of all ages.

Where is your second internship located?

It is at Riley House and Center Museum. This is a smaller museum, which means everybody who works there has more input. I am working on upcoming events; I get to research, design, and write the panels for the next exhibit. I unboxed all the artifacts that were loaned to us from other places. We have several exhibitions opening over the next few months. We just had the opening of the first segment of the Black history in Tallahassee exhibition, and I was involved in the opening which was a great privilege.

I also work as an educator at the Riley House. I guide families through the house and interpret the house for them. For Black History Month, we have a program called Blended Lives for all 4th graders in Leon County, and I ran many of those tours. Usually, I get to guide groups of about 60 elementary school children through the exhibit. I love doing tours and interacting with the children.

I have a background in education, and I like teaching and lecturing. I was an educator at SeaWorld over the summer and the training I received at the theme park is helping me enormously. At SeaWorld, they taught us to always smile and have a lively expression on our faces. We were taught how to respond to questions that we did not know the answer to. We were trained to always be positive, enthusiastic, interested. And they explained how to adjust our talk to the audience in front of you. Providing an interpretation that is exciting to kids was the key. I learned how to engage an audience.

What was the greatest surprise in doing your internships? 

The greatest surprise at the Museum of Florida History was how hands-on my internship was and how much responsibility they trusted me with. When you think about it, this is one of 50 state history museums, and I thought of it initially as a big and intimidating institution. But after I started going there twice a week and got to know the staff, I was really happy with the amount of responsibility they gave me as an undergraduate intern.

With the Riley House, it's completely different experiences because it's not a huge institution. Again, I was surprised by how much of a voice I was given, how much responsibility and trust they had in their interns. I am sitting at the table at team meetings, and I am able to speak up and make contributions. The level of involvement and responsibility given to me at both places surprised me.

In a bigger museum, you have more specialized staff, and as an intern you will stay more in the track you have been hired for and get some really in-depth experiences. In a smaller museum, there is more shared involvement in all aspects of the museum, it’s more of an ‘all hands on deck’ atmosphere. Both are really great learning opportunities.

How did you find out about your internships?

I am a History major with a Museum Studies minor. For my minor, I took a class on Museum Basics with Dr. Carey Fee. We visited a lot of museums in the Tallahassee area, talking with their staff and directors. That taught me how to communicate with museum people. Then I did an email blast. I had a list of all the places that I wanted to intern at, and I sent them the same email: “Hi, I am Ana. I am looking for an internship. I am a hard worker. Please help me.” I got some interviews, passed the background checks, and got accepted.

What advice would you give other History majors looking for internships?

My advice is to use your professors as a resource. Go to their office hours. Bother them. They are there to help you. Ask all my professors; they'll tell you that I went and met with them. They are happy to talk to you. Especially, if you are an engaged student and want to get into their field.

I talked to my instructor in the Museum Studies minor, Dr. Carey Fee, and to Dr. Kathleen Conti in History. They helped me understand how to apply for internships.

How do you stay on top of everything: your coursework, your two internships and your social life?

I grew up in a very disciplined household. As a child, I was encouraged to take part in both music and sport. I did competitive dance and was on the swim team. I was also in the choir and played upright bass. All of those things require a lot of practice. To be successful and get good grades in school, I had to stay on top of my commitments.

My advice to students starting out at university now is – get a planner and use it. Do your assignments as early as possible. Plan everything early. Instead of lying in bed, get up and do something. Time will pass either way, use it wisely.  

What are you going to do after graduation this spring? 

My plan is to go to grad school in either public history, museum studies, or art history. But I want to take a gap year. I am planning on going to Malaga, Spain, where Picasso is from. There is a big artistic community there, and it’s near the beach. I am from Florida and Puerto Rico, so being close to a beach is a must!