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History Doctoral Students Enjoy Work at Eisenhower Museum

By Jacinda Dent
Communications Student Assistant

Troy ElkinsFor history doctoral students Troy Elkins and Jeff Nelson, an ideal day is spent among historic artifacts and documents.

Elkins and Nelson both work at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, the boyhood home of Dwight “Ike” D. Eisenhower who was 34th president of the United States, serving from 1953 to 1961.

An open internship at the museum is offered to students, tailored toward those with an interest in history at Kansas State University. Elkins spent time at the museum as an intern several years ago and was eventually offered a full-time position. Nelson currently holds the internship position.

"Our partnership with Kansas State University has brought us into contact with many great students from across the campus," said Director Karl Weissenbach. "The partnership is not limited to history students. We've also the had pleasure of working with communications, marketing, and foreign language students. We're fortunate to have Troy and Jeff on hand and look forward to working with many more Wildcats in the future. "

Both Nelson and Elkins have worked on a variety of projects while at the museum, specifically dealing with planning exhibits and preservation of materials.

“The best part of working here is that you are doing something different every day,” Elkins said. “The activities range from environmental checks to proper handling and preserving of century old artifacts and basic woodworking to exhibit presentation. At the same time, we are tasked with conducting a full inventory of artifacts held by the museum and digitally photographing them for future reference.”

Some projects took weeks, even months, to complete and it took a team of people to complete just one exhibit.

“The museum techs - me and Troy - we write the text, source the graphics, pictures and artifacts. The curator works with us to help design the layout,” Nelson said. “Once we get all that done we get the actual fun of building the exhibit and putting it all together.”

To Nelson, the experience of interning at the museum is important to not only his career, but to the careers of other K-Staters as well.

“Sometimes, working after graduation can seem like a scary and daunting task,” Nelson said. “But this internship shows that K-State graduates, with the help of K-State, can succeed in their chosen field.”

Jeff NelsonNelson hopes to work at the museum after he completes his doctoral program. As a history student in the College of Arts & Sciences at K-State, he has spent much of his time at the museum not only working, but using it as a historical source.

“It shows a good sense of Kansas values. The museum gives a really good overview of Eisenhower’s military and presidential service,” Nelson said. “For K-State students with any major that requires research, the archival side of the museum is a great place for that.”

Elkins also feels that the museum holds benefits for students, by letting them learn and hone in on their skills in the field of history.

“Eisenhower provides a great opportunity through internships to introduce graduate students into working with a government agency in both archival and artifact preservation fields,” he said. “Interns get the chance to take the hours spent developing skills in research and writing and apply them in ways that educate the public and preserve the artifacts of our country.”

Both Elkins and Nelson agreed that the internship benefits their professional careers, giving them the chance to gain real-world experience while they continue their education.

“Working at the Eisenhower Museum provides me a great opportunity to apply the academic skills developed at K-State,” Elkins said. “The close contact with visitors to the museum and their feedback prove time and again how important preserving and presenting history is. This job goes a long way to keep me motivated and pursuing further academic goals.”