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Internship Spotlight – Taylor Schoenfeld

This post is part of our Internship Spotlight series. For this installment, Taylor Schoenfeld (’24) reflects on his experience working with Zachary Stocks (’14), Executive Director of Oregon Black Pioneers, to re-house their collection.

profile photo of Museology student Taylor Schoenfeld

Recently I completed an internship with the Oregon Black Pioneers. I worked with Executive Director Zachary Stocks on a full museum collection move and inventory project. Going into the internship my learning goals were to set new professional collections standards, ensure OBP property and data are handled with appropriate care and security, and to gain experience in museum collections management. Through this internship I not only met these goals, but learned about aspects of museum work that cannot be anticipated, cannot be taught in books or classrooms. However, the value of my classroom learning was demonstrated through this experience, as my academic expertise was frequently relied upon.

The OBP collection had never been formally inventoried, and my coursework in Museology informed me of best practices while creating our collections management database. When I asked what numbering convention we would use to assign each object a unique identifier, the director said he would defer to my expertise. This was a memorable moment, when I realized I have expertise to offer museum professionals in a real working environment. This wasn’t a lab, or a hypothetical scenario, I was determining the organizational standards of this museum for the foreseeable future.


Museology student Taylor Schoenfeld stands on a step stool and holds a camera up high to photograph a large object from the Oregon Black Pioneers collectionBefore I drove down to Oregon, we had virtual meetings with staff from the Philomath Museum (also known as the Benton County Historical Society) who graciously offered up some of their climate-controlled collections storage space to house our collections. The OBP collections had previously been stored in a self-storage unit for years. I drove down to Salem, Oregon once in 2023 and again for the final trip in 2024, most of the other work was remote database input and organization. Each trip consisted of two days of work involving inventory, cleaning, organizing, measuring, packing, driving, and photographing. Efficient communication was essential to the completion of this internship, especially since it was in another state. It was reassuring to have my supervisor’s expectations outlined and empowering to have my expectations heard.

Many of my past internship experiences from undergrad were unpaid, and while I value what I learned, I also struggled to make ends meet. Students should not have to choose between paying for food or credits, which is why paid internships are so important. The fact that UW Museology is the only museum studies program in the world to offer funding for internships is one of the points that initially drew me to the program. I could not afford to drive to another state to work for free, the Museology funding helped make this internship possible.

Nothing ever goes according to plan in the real world. In class we often discuss ideal scenarios with plentiful archival materials, but when the dust is on your gloves and the only boxes available are too big or too small, decisions must be made. We were locked out of the storage facility multiple times due to electrical errors, we worked in the rain, and took unplanned trips to donate objects that did not belong in the collections. All these unexpected internship scenarios are where practical, hands-on learning happens.

After completing this internship, I now have the educational background as well as on-the-job experience that employers are looking for in collections managers. I am interested in increasing access to museum collections, because there is no point in preserving historic objects unless we can learn from them and enjoy their stories. I will continue learning and gaining expertise in the field of collection management, so that I may contribute to our collective understanding of the universe. The work I did for this internship was impactful in ways that were immediately apparent. Now whenever we need to find an object, we can look at the database and see its location, instead of driving several hours to dig through multiple storage units. We know the dimensions of every object, so we can design an exhibit, or even our own museum building someday.

The experience I gained through my internship at the Oregon Black Pioneers will undoubtedly aid me in my future career. Now I am taking a Special Collections Lab about preserving time-based media, and a Library Science class on Relational Database Management. These educational experiences complement each other in ways that have made me the museum professional I am today. As I reach my final quarters in the Museology Program, I am looking for opportunities at institutions that help make the world a better place, like the Library of Congress or the Smithsonian, where I may continue my journey of education, preservation, community-building, wellbeing, and social justice.