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Ready for takeoff

Ready for takeoff

Loyola senior Michelle King stands in front of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where she is working as a summer intern. (Photo: Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)

Intern profile

Loyola senior Michelle King is exploring space through a summer internship at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. In this interview, King, who is majoring in history and minoring in German studies, shares some of her favorite discoveries at the museum and a sneak peek at the future exhibit she's working on.

What attracted you to this internship?
I had done internships at museums in the past, most recently this past spring at the Field Museum. I want to go into museum work, so it seemed natural to keep progressing on that ladder.

What interests you about working in museums?
It is a mixture of working with physical historical objects and educating a wide variety of audiences. I enjoy bringing both real-life objects and real-life stories to people.

What are you currently working on?
The exhibition I’m working on now isn’t going to open to the public until 2021, so we’re in the very early stages of researching artifacts, images, quotations, and other aspects of the exhibit. The topic of the exhibit is how images of Earth from space have changed our perception of ourselves, and I’ve most recently been researching quotations by astronauts and other prominent figures.

What’s something interesting you’ve uncovered in your research?
I’ve been reading transcripts of radio communications of different space flights of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Reading quotes that have just been recently declassified has been fun, and it is interesting to see famous figures like Jim Lovell, Buzz Aldrin, and John Glenn exclaiming “Oh boy!” when they see Earth for the first time from space.

What’s your favorite part of the Smithsonian?
The door that I walk into every morning lets you see into the Milestones of Flight gallery, which has the Spirit of St. Louis, the lunar module, and so many different amazing planes and spacecraft. That’s a great initial view to see just walking into work every day.

But my personal favorite gallery is “Moving Beyond Earth,” which talks about the space shuttle era and has one of the launches of the space shuttle Discovery projected on a huge screen. It is very contemporary of what is happening in space now.

How will this internship help you in your career?
I would love to build and design exhibits, so working in the space history department here helps me understand how to develop content for an exhibit. I’ve learned that it is not just knowing a lot about the content but trying to think about how people will connect with that content so it can be personalized and interesting for a great variety of visitors.

If you could work on any exhibit, what would it be?
I personally like American history, and I’ve taken a lot of classes at Loyola about German history and World Wars I and II, so those are particular interests of mine. Somehow being able to address World War II in an exhibition would be really exciting for me personally. But when I was little I wanted to be an astronaut, so I really love what I’m doing here at the Smithsonian.