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Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

The Hoover Museum sits on the grounds of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site where in addition to visiting the museum, visitors can tour:

• Mr. Hoover's birthplace cottage
• a blacksmith shop
• Quaker Meeting house
• the gravesite of Mr. and Mrs. Hoover

As one of only thirteen Presidential Libraries in the country, we offer some unique and interesting opportunities. You could lead a group of students on a tour, greet visitors for special events, go on stage for one of our productions or visit local schools as a historic character. If you prefer behind the scenes involvement, ask about our archives department or curatorial workshop.

As a Volunteer for the Hoover Library and Museum, training for each of the areas is provided. You will have an opportunity to work with an enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff.


Laura Fraise on her experience volunteering at the Herbert Hoover Library

When I began college four years ago, I believed by senior year, the future would lay itself out for me in an endless array of employment and opportunity. Somewhere between then and now, reality hit. Choosing a career in the Liberal Arts is a challenge. Our classes are geared toward discussion and thought. Our grades are based on primary source analysis, and an ability to communicate concise thought through writing. We are different and special from the business and engineer majors of the world. If as a Liberal Arts student you are not planning to move onto law, academia, or education, a career may seem elusive. I have spent the last three years of college calming my parent’s nerves about my decision to be a history major. I could not picture myself in a better field than history. Therefore, a year ago when the reality of graduation first began to raise its ugly head, something had to be done. People seem to assume that history majors will become high school educators. The idea of dealing with high school for the rest of my career was more than I could bear. I began looking around for other paths in the history field.

First I turned to sophomore year when I took my history colloquium on 19th century women. For me, my colloquium was priceless. Although I had done many research projects before, I had never done such an intensive project. During the paper process, I found I actually enjoyed research. This seemed strange, enjoying frustrating and slow work, but I found it rewarding and interesting. The next step was to talk with my advisor. It is very important to foster a good relationship with your advisor; they can help you discover different paths that would be difficult to uncover alone. My advisor put me in touch with the Iowa Women’s Archives, where I began volunteering my junior year. The women there trained me in basic archival care of paper documents and photos.

Sometime during my junior year things began to piece themselves together. I found that I enjoyed working with artifacts of all sorts. I began to look into what it would take to work in the museum field. I contacted the museum studies program and went from there. The museum studies program is an 18 hour program that requires an internship. I had already planned on finding an internship to begin exploring career paths. During the second semester of my junior year I applied for three internships. The internship process usually consists of an application, an official transcript, a cover letter, a résumé, and at least one academic letter of recommendation. This is important, go meet with your professors, if only because you will need them to write letters for you someday.

I applied to The Smithsonian in Washington D.C., The Chicago Historical Society, and The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch Iowa. I received a flat “no” from the Smithsonian by e-mail. The Chicago Historical Society called for a phone interview. I was terrified. I got up early that morning, walked around waiting for the phone to ring. When it did, I was still terrified, and the interview was shaky. This was a completely new experience for me, but I was thankful for the opportunity to interview over the phone before I began job searching. I learned a lot about the process. Lucky for me, the Hoover Library was delighted to take me on as an archival and museum intern.

As an intern to a federally run library and museum, I found myself being finger printed and filling out an hour worth of paperwork on my first day. Fortunately, things got better from there. I spent one day a week working in the museum administration wing. There I learned accession, or how to catalog new donations to the Hoover collection. I also researched and put together booklets for certain objects to make further study easier. I worked for a great team, they were eager to take me in their care and teach me about exhibit construction and care. I also participated in the yearly inventory of the Hoover collections. This was not the most interesting thing I did, but it was a good way to learn the collections. As a museum intern, I was allowed to sit in on many staff meetings, and encouraged to voice my opinion.

In the archival wing where I worked two days a week, I processed papers such as letters and memorandums into collections. When a collection was completed, I wrote finding aids describing the collection’s content, and a brief biography on the individual. I also wrote a prompt for National History Day for students’ middle school through high school. This was particularly interesting; I was given a thesis, and then needed to create a subject to fill the thesis from the archives collections. This gave me freedom to construct something of my own interest. Towards the end of my time in the archives, I was given the opportunity to do research for a scholar in California who could not come to Iowa. I spent two days going through information for her, copying the findings, and corresponding by e-mail. It was interesting work, and the scholar was willing to pay me quite well for my time.

The people at the Hoover Library were friendly and willing to help me learn. It was an excellent experience, and a good stepping stone. Part of doing internships is gaining experience, and the other part is meeting people in your field of interest and developing a relationship. Recently, a professor from Wisconsin came to the library to write a biography of President Hoover. This professor has only a year to complete his research before he must return to his teaching. My archive supervisor recommended me to the professor as a research assistant. This is another benefit of internships; if you do a good job they often open more opportunities.

Whether you plan to stay in Iowa, or move across country, internships give you the opportunity to examine what is available to you. More than anything, an internship will help you identify what works for you. Certainly you would not buy an expensive pair of shoes without trying them on, why would you risk jumping into a career without trying it on as well. Although I am still grasping at were I will be in a year, I have a direction that was lacking a year ago. Search the internet and go the Career Center. Apply, apply, apply. Make time to invest in your future.

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Brian Brummel on his experience at The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

For the past months, I have been interning at the Herbert Hoover National History Site. In September and October, I was stationed as an interpreter in Hoover’s birthplace cottage. There I informed visitors about the childhood life of President Hoover. This generally involved talking to 10-50 people in an afternoon.

In addition, I gave tours to scheduled groups, most of them elementary school students. I would discuss daily life in the 1870s-80s in small town Iowa, talk about Quaker worship services and their beliefs and customs (Pres. Hoover was a Quaker). I also guided these groups through our one-room schoolhouse and a replica of an 1870s blacksmith shop.

In October, I spent two weeks at the adjacent Presidential Library, working with an archivist. He gave me two small projects which he felt could give me an idea of what an archivist does. Both involved going through boxes of materials that were related to speeches President Hoover made. Included were rough outlines, multiple drafts with hand written notes in the margins, memos to and from speechwriters, press releases, press coverage, and correspondence. My job was to choose two clean copies of each, and then file them accordingly. It was fascinating to handle and read these items.

Throughout the internship (increasingly in the colder months) I was also stationed at the front desk in the visitor's center to take admission fees, sell souvenirs, prepare deposits, answer questions about the historic site, answer phones, and perform various clerical tasks.

Twice, I came during a weekend to participate in special events. At the harvest festival I dressed as a 1870s farmer, pressed apple cider, churned butter, and ground cornmeal. All of this was done with 19th century implements and visitors were able to participate. The other festival was the Christmas fest. I sat on a wagon which was drawn by Belgian horses and gave tours of the park and the town for five hours on a COLD December night. The total of people on my wagon for the evening was 1007.