Finding history internships during the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t easy, but early American history buff Rory Luddy ’22 was determined.
He applied as a first-year student for summer internships at national parks for which “I was probably vastly underqualified,” which he says he realized after failing to get one.
He lined up an internship at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum that recreates rural life in Massachusetts from 1790-1830, pre-Industrial Revolution, for summer 2020.
Then the pandemic led historic sites and museums, including Old Sturbridge Village, to cancel their summer internship programs.
With the pandemic grinding on and many museums remaining closed, Luddy decided to spend summer 2021 at The Washington Center in Washington, D.C., where he earned academic credit while interning at the Lincoln Archives, a nonprofit that aims to digitize all of Abraham Lincoln’s presidential papers and make them searchable.
“I was reading and transcribing Civil War documents,” Luddy says. “That was my first real, practical experience as a historian.”
Next, as a senior, Luddy interned at the Tsongas Industrial History Center, an educational partnership between Lowell National Historical Park and UML’s School of Education that brings in school groups to learn about the Industrial Revolution through tours and hands-on activities.
During the pandemic, when school groups couldn’t visit in person, the museum staff had turned to developing virtual tours. Luddy helped Education Ranger Frank Clark and Kristin Gallas, the center’s project manager for education development, create a virtual tour of the weaving room that focused on the technology in Lowell’s textile mills and the lives of the mill workers.
Luddy also reapplied and was accepted for the summer internship at Old Sturbridge Village, which started right after he graduated in May 2022. Dressed in historically accurate costume, he worked with school groups during May and June and then helped to run the museum’s summer camp programs.
He finished by spending two weeks working exclusively on a research project that he’d pursued throughout the internship: He chose to add three locations to the museum’s abolition tour for school groups, with information about three important historical figures.
One was the famed Black speaker and writer Frederick Douglass. The other two were David Ruggles, a free Black man who ran a bookstore and newspaper in New York City and helped enslaved people escape via the Underground Railroad, and Maria Weston Chapman, a wealthy, white Boston woman who worked tirelessly with the American Anti-Slavery Society.
“I’d never heard of them before the internship,” Luddy says. “I thought it was important to talk about underrepresented populations, such as Black people and women, who were active participants in abolition.”
Now Luddy plans to work full time while researching and applying for master’s degree programs in history.
“The dream is to have a job as a museum curator where I would be doing research on objects and putting together exhibits,” he says. “But practically speaking, any work in a museum would be great – whether it’s marketing, museum education or helping to put together programs.
“I would love to work with people who are just as passionate as I am about history.”