From Contest to Internship at Holocaust Memorial Museum
Yanina Karpenkina won the 2016 annual contest for HSE students, which is organized by the International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences. Thanks to the contest, she went on a six-week internship as a research assistant with the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Here, Yanina Karpenko shares her impressions of both the contest and the internship.
In June 2015, I took part in the Dissertation and Thesis Development Workshop ‘The Holocaust in the Soviet Union’ at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. I was very happy when I heard I had been accepted on this workshop. A year later, I returned to Washington to work as a research assistant at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies for a month and a half. And this time, I had my personal pass to the museum, which, honestly, I was very proud of.
Daniel Newman, the curator, helped me a lot in my work and helped me adapt to my new environment. I want to express my gratitude to him here. I have very positive impressions of the staff both at the museum as a whole, and particularly at the Centre. Everyone was very nice, helpful, and happy to see us. And, I don’t know how, but almost everyone immediately understood that we were from HSE, ‘from Professor Budnitsky’.
Since the topic of my thesis is related to the Holocaust, I was allowed to spend all my time working on research. So I looked for sources in the archive and selected the necessary literature in the library on the fifth floor of the Holocaust Museum. The time passed so quickly – the month and a half felt like just a couple of weeks. It is very easy to work with the museum’s digital photo archive. You simply choose the photos you need from an online catalogue, and order them via email. Kassandra, a very friendly archivist, very quickly sends you the links you need to download high-resolution copies of the photos. My work with archive documents and library literature was very fruitful.
The United States’ capital is famous for its museums, all the more so that most of them have free admission. Last year I was impressed with the variety and rich exhibitions on show at Washington’s museums. I was most impressed with the National Museum of Natural History, the National Art Gallery, and the National Museum of American History. This summer, I enjoyed visiting these museums again. I was particularly impressed with the National Museum of American History, which is very different from historical museums in other countries.
The exhibition at the Holocaust Memorial Museum is also very special. The museum’s building and interior are very spacious and full of light. They look very modern, but at the same time are able to communicate so much about the concentration camps. Perhaps strangely, rather than being off-putting this was very thought provoking. Perhaps it struck me like this because I would work late, and crossed the big hall to go home later, after the bustling, noisy crowds had receded. I was engulfed with a sense of grief. Of course, the exhibition leaves an even deeper impression because it contains personal belongings from and photos of the Holocaust victims, models of the concentration camps, part of the Warsaw ghetto wall, and many other deeply moving artifacts.
In late July, I decided to give myself a birthday present and spend weekend in New York. There, I saw the typical tourist sights, walked along the Broadway, went up the Empire State Building, and sailed to the Statue of Liberty.
I was able to achieve a surprising amount of work-life balance in the month and a half I spent in the United States. I had enough time for academic research and the typical tourist entertainment. I would like to thank Oleg Budnitsky and Daniel Newman, who organized this amazing trip for us, for this great opportunity to spend a useful and enjoyable time in Washington, D.C. I am also grateful to the Faculty of Humanities for the academic mobility opportunities it provides for its students.
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