Student Historians High School Internship Program


Student Historians High School Internship Program

ew-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: 212.873.3400
Fax: 212.721.7647

Focus: History, Humanities

Annual Number Participating: 60

Ages: High School

Annual Budget: $60,000.00

Partners: Fund for the City of New York; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation; The Pinkerton Foundation; Tides Foundation


How much fun could it be to study for New York State’s mandatory, standardized Regents exam in U.S. history? Not much…unless you happen to be a high school student who made your way to the New-York Historical Society’s (N-YHS) Regents Review this past June. The free Friday night event included a “history highlights” tour of the museum’s collection, a trivia contest to identify the historical figures who supposedly tweeted the 140-characters-or-less quotes, and a copy of a test-review guide prepared by students for students.

The event was created by N-YHS’s crack team of “Student Historians,” a group of New York City teens participating in the museum’s High School Internship Program. The program is designed to deepen students’ knowledge of history, while providing a supportive community of peers with similar interests, according to Sharon Dunn, vice president for education. The Internship Program offers both academic-year and summer sessions and attracts a diverse group. Economically disadvantaged teens receive stipends. Those with unpaid internships may earn community service hours or school credit.

Interns tackle a variety of creative and content-rich challenges. One of the interns’ first assignments is to research a few objects from the museum’s collection—which includes 5 million paintings, documents, and artifacts spanning 400 years—and summarize their findings in research reports and blog posts. Interns have studied a vast range of items, including the ceramic skulls used to teach the pseudoscience of phrenology as well as archival brewery ads used to market beer. “Because we can’t possibly know everything about every object, the research the students do is actually put to use,” notes Mia Nagawiecki, director of education.

The teens also help the museum reach out to their peers. In addition to planning the Regents Review night, past interns scripted a teen-focused audio tour for the museum’s “Lincoln and New York” exhibition, complete with raps and fictional dialogue between historical figures.

While the Internship Program isn’t necessarily designed to produce future museum professionals, it gives students the academic skills, confidence, and workplace exposure to help them aim high, says Chelsea Frosini, coordinator of secondary and post-secondary programs. Over the past three years, 100 percent of the program’s seniors have gone on to college, with many choosing majors in history or art history.

Never thought I’d say this, but I don’t care if it’s possibly unconstitutional! At 3 cents an acre, this is too good a deal to pass up! @Napoleon_Bonaparte, dude, you’re kind of an idiot. #ManifestDestinySwag April 30, 1803

Name-That-Historical-Figure trivia tweet created by N-YHS interns. (Answer: Thomas Jefferson, referring to the Louisiana Purchase)