Sarah S. Elkind

Public History Internships

As a history major, you can satisfy your capstone requirement (History 450) with an internship at a museum, archive, or historical site. SDSU interns have helped organize archival collections, inventoried museum artifacts, designed educational programs for school children, and worked as history tour guides for the state parks. It's a terrific way to try out a career, gain work experience, and finish off your history major, all at the same time.

Internships are always available at Old Town State Historic Park, Lambda Archives, San Diego History Center, and the Nixon Presidential Library (Yorba Linda). They can frequently also be arranged at the Maritime Museum, Museum of Man, San Diego City Clerk's office, SDSU's Special Collections, Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum (Vista), and many other places around the county.

As an intern, you will complete 150 hours of work at a historical site or library. Your site provides training and evaluates your work. Your internship should be focused on history (as opposed to other kinds of work experience) and should teach you something. Ideally, each intern will have a specific project of their own to develop from beginning to end. At the end of your internship, you will write a report about the work that you did. If you develop educational programs, you will also assemble a binder explaining your program, with a summary of your research and bibliography of sources. Other types of internships are likely to require other written assignments. All internships at non-profit and government agencies are unpaid.

Who can sign up for a History 452 internship?


To do a History 452 internship, you have to be a History major, and you have to have completed History 400. You might choose an internship as an alternative to History 450. Or you might want to complete an internship in addition to History 450 or History 451.


If you are not a history major, or if you are a history major but have not taken History 400 yet, ask me about a History 495 internship.


Registration for History 452 is only possible during the Spring semester. You may complete your internship hours and written work at any time of the year. Email Dr. Elkind ( for more information. But first, fill out the internship application form and drop it off at my office (Arts and Letters 532).


Types of Internships:

Teaching and developing educational programs:


Old Town Interpretation:

Old Town State Park was established near the site of California's first Spanish settlement, and attempts to recreate life in California from the 1820s to the 1870s. The park consists of a number of original and reconstructed wood and adobe buildings, furnished much as they would have been in the nineteenth century. Internships at Old Town are likely to appeal to students interested in museum and park interpretation, teaching and anyone who is interested in nineteenth century California history. Interpretation interns design and present educational programs to school groups and the general public. All summer interns will be assigned to Old Town.


San Diego Museum of Man:

The San Diego Museum of Man is a cultural and physical anthropology museum in Balboa Park that focuses on collecting, preserving, and interpreting evidence of human development, creativity, and artistic expression throughout the history of humankind. Interns at the Museum of Man develop and present school programs and work on special projects with the education department. This is a very good internship for students interested in museum education or teaching. The Museum of Man can accommodate only one or two interns at a time, so if you are interested in an internship here, see me early.


San Diego History Center:

The San Diego History Center in Balboa Park is dedicated to helping people of all ages learn about, and enjoy, the history of San Diego, and to appreciate how our past, present, and future are interrelated. Interns at the History Center help the museum's Education Department develop new public and school programs. Some interns also have the opportunity work with school groups, or participate in exhibit design. This is a particularly good internship for students interested in a career in museum education, exhibit design, or teaching. The San Diego History Center can only accept one intern at a time, so see me early if you are interested in working here.


Nixon Presidential Library:  

The Nixon Presidential Library, in Yorba Linda (Orange County) is now part of the National Archives. Interns here develop and give tours to school groups visiting the library, and may also help with archival projects. This internship will appeal to students who are interested in twentieth century political history and foreign policy. You must be willing to drive to Orange County.


We are also developing internships at the San Diego Maritime Museum. You are welcome to develop an internship elsewhere, but you must get my approval before you begin. I will only approve internships that use and enhance your historical knowledge and skills, and that teach you something.


Archives and Libraries:


Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum, Vista: 

Founded in 1969, the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum is a private, non-profit museum that collects, preserves and displays machinery and crafts from late-nineteenth and early twentieth century American farms and rural communities. The museum is operated almost exclusively by volunteers, many of whom have astounding mechanical knowledge of steam, diesel and internal combustion engines. The museum has operating steam tractors, steam engines, antique gas and diesel machinery, threshers, a saw mill, blacksmiths, a grist mill and a building full of looms. Annual special events at the museum include Tractor Shows, several music festivals and Civil War reenactments. Internships at AGSEM will appeal to students who are interested in America's rural history, who like antique equipment and hand crafts, who work independently, and who are looking for an internship in North County. AGSEM needs interns to help organize archives and manage collections. This is best for someone who is interested in a career in libraries or archives.


Lambda Archives of San Diego:    

Lamda Archives is the main archive collecting information about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities in the San Diego/Tijuana region. Archival collections include organizational records (e.g. The Center, or Chris Kehoe’s political campaign,) personal collections of activists or community records, art, photographs, memorabilia, etc. The archive is located in University Heights, San Diego. Interns at Lambda Archives organize archival or book collections, and sometimes help design historical displays. This is a particularly good internship for students interested in LGBT history and in librarianship. I hope to develop additional archival internships at the San Diego History Center and at the County Law Library.



Testimonials from recent interns:

"The best thing about these internships is learning new skills and interacting with the children. It was more rewarding than I could have imagined and I will continue to volunteer as long as I have free time. … You don't need any specific skills so much as you need willingness to learn and the patience that goes along with it."


"The best thing about this internship was the opportunity for a history major to actually do something concrete in the actual field!"


"[We got] to see the games we had worked on so hard [develop] into lasting programs that the kids and teachers rave about. Receiving compliments week after week from the staff at the school and in Old Town, and being wanted right away to move into a paying job, was very rewarding."