Jen Vos, a 2012 history graduate, considers her senior year at Calvin as crucial to providing experiences that led her to where she is today. Jen spent the fall semester in Budapest, Hungary, soaking up the culture and history of Central and Eastern Europe, while also developing her interest and skills in photography. Upon returning from Budapest, Jen was a collections intern at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, conducting research in the archives and cataloging artifacts into the museum’s database.
These two experiences prepared Jen to secure a spot in the Padnos Internship Program at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum upon graduation from Calvin. She was immediately put to work on a new and ambitious project: to produce professional quality photographs of the entire collection of 19,000 artifacts. Due to the scope of the project, Jen was asked to continue her internship into the fall of 2012.
While Jen’s supervisor at the Ford Museum worked on a proposal to fund a full-time position photographing artifacts, Jen continued working on the project during a two-month temp period in the spring of 2013. She spent the rest of 2013 working at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, first as the assistant manager of the gift shop at the Titanic exhibit, and then as a front desk customer service associate.
In December of 2013, Jen learned that the Gerald R. Ford Foundation agreed to fund a full time Digital Technician position for 2014. Jen accepted the offer, and in early January, returned to her post and started her current position as Digital Technician at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Jen enjoys the opportunity to photograph artifacts and edit the photos for promotional use.
“Without a doubt, my favorite part about my job is being able to handle artifacts. It is quite literally a hands-on approach to history,” Jen explains. “I can read an online article about the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in 1942, and then walk into collections storage to see Doolittle’s Medal of Honor, which is on loan for an upcoming exhibit. Physical artifacts give context and evidence to the past in a very concrete way. It is an honor and a privilege to help preserve these artifacts for future generations.”
Reflecting on her career path so far, Jen recognizes that her internship at the Grand Rapids Public Museum helped secure her internship with the Ford Museum, which in turn, helped secure her current position. As a result of this experience, she recommends that Calvin students pursue an internship as soon as possible.
“Internships are the best way to gain experience and to test interest and aptitude in a particular field,” says Jen. “Also, pay attention to the daily routine of your supervisor. Intern tasks can seem dull at times, but you won’t be an intern forever. If you pursue the field in which you intern, your daily tasks will more closely resemble that of your supervisor than your internship.”
Written by Meredith Segur, posted July 2014