When I started my internship at the Kirkman House Museum here in Walla Walla, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew my main job would be giving tours, but based on what my supervisor had told me, the museum needed help everywhere. The museum is staffed entirely by volunteers—a handful of extremely dedicated Walla Wallans who love history like I do—so there is a whole lot to do. I knew I might be tasked with some challenging projects, but I didn’t anticipate how much I would enjoy them!
Since I started working full-time at the end of May, I’ve been keeping a running list of all the tasks I’ve accomplished so far. To my pleasant surprise, I’ve enjoyed every single one—even the slightly mundane household chores. Since the museum is a house museum, my tasks have included dusting, weeding, scraping paint off the carriage house, and checking the smoke detectors (which becomes especially exciting when they’re mounted on twelve-foot-high ceilings!). It’s rewarding to know that my work is helping to restore the Kirkman House Museum to the home it once was. I like to think the Kirkmans would be impressed with the state of their front garden if they saw it today, and knowing that I helped with that is really gratifying.
I’ve also been challenged to try new things. I’ve worked on marketing the museum and its events (check out our upcoming Rosie the Riveter style show here!), creating and editing content for the museum’s Facebook page (here), and promoting the museum through partnerships with organizations like AAA. I haven’t done any sort of marketing work before, but it’s been a fun challenge to take on. For the Rosie the Riveter show, for example, I helped design promotional materials, submitted advertisements to all the local newspapers, created a Facebook event for it, and linked up the ticketing page with Google Analytics to help track how our attendees found the event.
All the above jobs have been in conjunction with other volunteers, but I’ve also taken on a few individual projects. I researched, planned, and wrote a guide for a new tour we’re starting with the local carriage company. We’ll be taking guests around historic Walla Walla neighborhoods in a horse-drawn covered wagon, along the way pointing out notable houses and telling the stories of their residents. I’ve also worked to create an interactive version of the story of William Kirkman, the original owner of the Kirkman House. Check out my version of his story here!
William Kirkman’s story is truly a fascinating one, and even though I really enjoy all the other tasks I’ve taken on at the museum, giving tours is easily my favorite. I love meeting visitors and discovering what brought them to Walla Walla. Three sisters from Alabama came to Walla Walla because their father, who had recently passed, had spent some time here and they wanted to follow in his footsteps. A mother from Omaha, Nebraska came out west to watch her son’s debut with the Sweets. A woman from Alaska and a man from northern Alberta were shocked to hear that William Kirkman spent time in Lillooet, British Columbia—the woman had gone to school there. Two married Whitman graduates came with the husband’s mother, who had known the granddaughter of William Kirkman and was overjoyed to see the family’s original piano she had heard so much about. I love hearing visitors’ stories, and sharing the Kirkmans’ story with them. I like to watch as they interact with the history all around them, admiring the museum’s beautiful architecture and historic family heirlooms. I love watching history bring people together, and I’m really grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to see the power of history.