UNL Art and Anthropology Senior Receives Smithsonian Internship

Emma deVries
Emma deVries

UNL Art and Anthropology Senior Receives Smithsonian Internship

07 May 2014    

Emma deVries, a University of Nebraska–Lincoln senior dual major in art and anthropology from Lincoln, Neb., has received a Smithsonian Internship to work at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., this summer.

“I’m really excited,” deVries said. “This was the one I really wanted because I’ve been trying to get this internship for three years now.”

DeVries will begin on June 2 and continue until Aug. 21. The internship fits perfectly with her career goal to be an exhibition designer.

“The Smithsonian is so world-renowned,” she said. “This is really what I want to do. I want to work at an international museum, so that will be really beneficial.”

Associate Professor of Art Sandra Williams is excited that deVries will have this opportunity.

“She’s a brilliant, young woman, and she’s going to do amazing things,” Williams said.

deVries said her interest in exhibition design began with her participation in History Day through the Science Focus Program in the Lincoln Public Schools.

“The first time I did History Day, I didn’t get out of districts,” deVries said. “So I felt like I really had to redeem myself, so the next year, I went all the way.”

Her presentation titled “The Debate of Desegregation: ‘Not Enough Army to Go Around’” earned her a spot in the national finals in Washington, D.C., where she placed second. While there, she had the opportunity to meet and visit with Nigel Briggs, from the Office of Design at the National Museum of American History.

“I realized then that I could combine my interest in research with my art,” she said. “It was just a really enjoyable experience.”

This past year, deVries participated in UCARE (Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences) with Williams serving as her faculty adviser.

“Emma did this really great, completely independently directed project where she made family guides of the Sheldon Sculpture Garden, so anyone who wanted to visit the sculptures would be able to know some background and to interpret them,” Williams said. “She made a guide for almost every single sculpture on campus. That was pretty fascinating.”

She had also completed some posters about extinction and raising awareness for endangered animals for Morrill Hall in a separate project.

Williams encouraged her to apply a third time this summer for the Smithsonian Internship.

“She wasn’t sure since she had applied twice and said they always went to graduate students,” Williams said. “But I said, no, you’re a great catch. Anyone would love to have you as an intern.”

DeVries rewrote her application letter, and Assistant Professor of Art Stacy Asher assisted her with updating her online portfolio that she had completed in her graphic design course.

Williams encouraged her to apply for “everything,” so deVries sent applications to the Renwick Gallery, the Office of Central Exhibitions, the National Portrait Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Museum of American History and even NASA.

She made it to the final two at the Office of Central Exhibitions, and the National Portrait Gallery asked if they could share her portfolio.

“Then she heard back from Nigel Briggs, who is actually one of her idols,” Williams said. “She really loves his work as an exhibition designer.”

She even turned down NASA to work with Briggs at the National Museum of American History, where she will help update the wayfinding system at the museum, create a display for their office and other projects with the other interns.

“I’m just really looking forward to working with Nigel and having his experience, help and mentorship,” deVries said.

She will have Fridays off, so she plans to also explore the museums while she is there.

“I’m just looking forward to being able to see all the museums in depth and all the behind-the-scenes activity,” she said. “When I was there as a kid, I couldn’t really appreciate it, and I wasn’t there very long for History Day to see all the museums.”

Williams was confident she would get something at the Smithsonian this summer.

“I was pretty sure of it,” she said. “She really wants to go to England to do her graduate work there, so I think the next things we want to pursue are to start looking at a Fulbright or Rhodes Scholars. I really think that’s who she is.”DeVries said her interest in exhibition design just comes from her love of learning and wanting to share what she has learned.

“I really love learning, so if I’m able to teach someone else, that’s what I want to do,” she said. “Making it visually interesting allows people to actually take the time and read it. It makes them engaged. I just always enjoy sharing what I know.”