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Hands-On History

EIU grad student interns at Illinois State Museum, making history fun for all ages

Even the most avid fans of museums, such as Samantha Sauer, can recall what it is like to be a kid in a quiet place devoid of touching, talking or play.

“I guess I was kind of a museum person. My family would go on vacations and try to fit a museum in,” Sauer said. “I’ve been in enough institutes where maybe I was bored as a kid or wasn’t interested in the subject.”

Sauer, a graduate student in Eastern’s historical administration program, is now an intern at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, the headquarters for the state-sponsored series of natural history museums.

“One of the things I’m interested in doing as I grow in the field is making each visitor’s visit exciting and different and go beyond the stereotype that museums are boring and dusty old places.”

Sauer’s primary area of focus at the museum is in the Children’s Play Museum, a room dedicated to translating the museum experience for visitors age four to eight into a more tangible, fun experience. Beyond constant elements to the play museum, such as a dig pit and a cave, are monthly themes that Sauer helps develop.

“For October our theme was ‘Fantastic Fossils and Dinosaurs,’ and so from start to finish I had to figure out what are the main learning objectives we want families and children to encounter at this event,” she said. “They can walk in and learn a bit about the Illinois state fossils and dinosaurs, which was a challenge since no dinosaurs or dinosaur remains have been found in the state of Illinois. So that was one of the objectives we wanted to get across- dinosaurs, while they might have lived in this area, haven’t been discovered yet.”

For Samantha and students in the historical administration program, history is more dynamic than it is static.

“We are constantly learning new things in the field, museums are there to help communicate that.”

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