A Date with the Museum, by intern Joe Ruskey
I lived in Bloomington-Normal as a college student for three years before I ever visited the McLean County Museum of History. Coming from a big city, and having studied abroad in Europe, the thought never crossed my mind to explore the cultural attractions of my college's locale. Bloomington-Normal was where I went to school, and not much else. And the harsh weather, the frigid winters and sweltering summers, made me often question the choice of living here.
It was easy for me to stay in my college's bubble; rarely did I venture outside of it. However as time moved forward I needed to apply for internships. One of which I applied for was the McLean County Museum of History's development and marketing internship. I wanted to gain experience in marketing, and I am a lover of history, so it was a natural fit. After interviewing online (I was abroad, so I could not interview in person), I secured the position.
Months later I returned to the US and began the first day of my internship with a brisk walk to the Museum. Sure, I had been to downtown Bloomington before, but I had never observed where I was going, how I was getting there, and what was around me. The Museum, surrounded by interesting stores and delicious restaurants, anchored a lush green space that was literally only minutes away from my campus. After getting a tour of the iconic downtown landmark, I learned the Museum had 240 volunteers and was one of 3% of accredited museums in the country.
The Museum has national recognition and the loyalty of locals because it is ours. It represents the varied history and cultures of McLean County, whether that is Irish, Mexican, German, Indian, and everything in between. There is a library and archives that houses the history of us that can be used by anyone seeking knowledge. Every facet of daily life, from politics to the office to the farm is recorded and remembered in some way, and in certain cases are even interactive, such as the pioneer play area for children.
And because the Museum tells the story of us, it does not leave out the tragic parts of our past. Artifacts such as weapons that have shed blood and a KKK outfit are on display for a reason. The dark moments give us context to where we have been, and how that has molded our society into what it is today.
This is important for everyone to consider, but as a college student I could not help but notice the lack of involvement from my demographic. Sure, the interns are college students, but college students are typically not the ones visiting the Museum, which is why it's important for them to have a date with the Museum, just as I did. On the first Tuesday of September, from 6 to 8 PM, college students will be able to get free Monical's pizza and free admission to the Museum. I hope for a crowd of college students to make their way through the galleries and learn something about where they live, eat pizza while mingling, and relax on the Museum's crisp green lawn. My marketing idea can easily be interpreted as a ploy, because that's exactly what it is. As a college student, I know that we love pizza. And I also know that college students do care, but oftentimes we may not realize what is in our very own backyard. McLean County and Bloomington-Normal is their home just as much as it is for everyone else living here, which is why I find it so necessary for us to share in the history of McLean County, and to embrace our role as being a part of this wonderful community.