Notes from the Field: Ja-Zette Marshburn

Today we have our fourth edition of “Notes from the Field.” Each month we’ve brought you a guest post from a student currently completing their field study requirement. This week we have Ja-Zette Marshburn who is conducting her field study work at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

We’d also like to take a moment to remind those of you registered for one of the field study courses this spring that that the Field Study Database is available to help you identify a field study site.

Want to know more about the field study experience?

You can learn even more about the field study experiences and the course projects of both MLS and MIM students at this year’s iSchool Experiential Learning Expo on December 5th from 5-7pm. This event will be held on the 2nd floor of Hornbake Building, South Wing, and light refreshments will be served. This is a particularly great opportunity for future field study students to learn from others who have successfully completed the field study experience.

And now Notes from the Field…

My name is Ja-Zette Marshburn, and I am fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work as a curatorial research intern at the satellite office of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). I applied for the field study position through the Smithsonian Internship program. I have aspirations to be a museum archivist specifically within this institution, so I thought getting my foot in the door before the museum is even built would be helpful. 

The NMAAHC was birthed in 2003 as an act of Congress and will serve to document, educate, and inspire all Americans through the recognition of achievements, trials and tribulations of African Americans. It seeks to do this through conversation-starting and question-creating exhibitions and programming. In my position I serve as a researcher for one of the guest curators and entails doing biographical and topical research about a list of notable African American individuals, organizations, and subjects related therein. I use the clues from this list to canvas the country for cultural materials.

This research process requires that I create research questions and pick apart what is known of these individual and institutional histories in order to generate a contact list of family, friends, associates, business partners that may still have personal objects and artifacts that belonged to or are associated with these individuals or events. I am also looking into notable institutions, historical societies, and collectors that may have objects and artifacts.

I find this work to be very exciting and interesting, especially when I am able to put to work the research methods and access methodologies that I have learned in my iSchool coursework. The genealogy research methods that make it possible to discover all types of personal information about individuals and their families is particularly useful. I also find that I’m using the collection documentation strategies including those that reveal duplicate and/or related collection trends and patterns is central to the work that I am doing.

 My intense interest in African American history makes this work that much more exciting. I get to work with the curatorial and historical “rock stars” in the field of African American history! This internship makes me feel as though I am a part of history and serves to teach us all how our valuable our intellectual output is to American society. 

Ja-Zette Marshburn


Ja-Zette Marshburn

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