The Homestead Museum is excited to welcome Isis Quan to the paid staff as our new Programs Assistant. She’s already a familiar face around the Homestead. For 10 weeks over the summer, she worked as an intern, developing curriculum for school programs and providing support for special events and children’s tours. Isis holds a B.A. in History with a minor in Nonviolent Studies from Cal Poly Pomona, and is currently at Cal State Fullerton, where she is nearing completion of an M.A. in Public History. Isis quickly adapted to the pace and scope of activity at the museum. She’s already proven herself as an enthusiastic contributor with a passion for research. Read more about her below.
Tell us about the internship project that you are most proud of.
The internship projects that I am most proud of, without a doubt, are the board games we developed. The project started off as a bartering activity, but eventually evolved into two separate but related games, tracing the historic routes of William Workman and F.P.F. Temple to California. I distinctly remember playing the Oregon Trail video game as an elementary school child. The risk of death at the hands of uncontrollable circumstances was what kept the game compelling. The goal of our game is similar to the Oregon Trail: survive. The game attempts to portray how difficult and dangerous both walking the Old Spanish Trail and sailing around Cape Horn were in the 1840s. By using primary accounts of the routes, I did my best to compile historically accurate fortunes and hardships to drive gameplay. Overall, the goal of the project was to both educate and entertain, and I had a blast with the design.
As a student, what were some things you were surprised to learn about how the museum functions?
The most surprising thing to learn about the Homestead Museum, for me, was that almost all of the services provided were free. I could not believe that not only were the tours free, but so too were most of the major events and programs. I was amazed that the museum could provide so much for the community. Another thing that I found surprising was how technologically savvy the museum was. It was refreshing to find that the museum had fully embraced social media as a way to reach out to the public. It was even more refreshing to find out that their social media was constantly updated and maintained. Lastly, I was surprised at how friendly everyone was. While I didn’t expect people to be mean or rude, I was still blown away by how welcoming and helpful the paid and volunteer staff were. The passion and enthusiasm of the people who contribute to the Homestead Museum is contagious, and I’ve had conversations with the people here that I will treasure for a lifetime.
How can museums do a better job of explaining what goes on behind the scenes?
I think that many people have a misconception of what goes on behind the scenes in museums. I think that movies have led people to believe that people who work in museums are knee-deep in archaeological dig sites, or bartering for rare paintings to be put on display. For the most part, museums are not-for-profit organizations and their goals are to provide for and enrich their communities. In the past, museums were often collections of oddities and trinkets with little to no criteria other than that they were bizarre. I think that behind-the-scenes programs are a great way for museums to dislodge the eccentric image of their past, and show the public that their collecting is driven by education.
What made you apply for the Programs Assistant position?
My dream has been to work in a historical museum. I love history, and I’ve always wanted to share my passion for history with others. I’ve always felt that museums offered a unique opportunity to share history with the public, creating a memorable and interactive experience that differs from the standard classroom structure. I was particularly drawn to the Programs Assistant position because I felt it was a chance for me to both educate and entertain. I want to engage with visitors and show them how much there is to be learned from history. Since public programs enabled that kind of interaction, I knew I wanted to be part of that process.