Markham Museum internships give York students experience in the competitive field of public history

The Markham Museum staffs its internship program with some of the best and brightest history students from York University. In turn, this community partner makes its mark on the careers of students who aim to pursue a future in the cultural sector and public history organizations.

York students Sarah Persichitti (left) and Ohan Stamboulian

York students and Markham Museum interns Sarah Persichitti (left) and Ohan Stamboulian hold the White Glove Commendation, a trophy used to show appreciation to the part-time staff and interns who have worked at the Markham Museum since the new building was constructed in 2011

“We are honoured to partner with Markham Museum, and appreciate the fantastic opportunity this provides our students,” said Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS). “We’re expanding experiences and internships for our students to provide them with relevant experience and an unbeatable amalgam of theory and practice.”

The 12-week, 120-hour internship at the museum is one of a wide range of placement opportunities offered to students enrolled in the fourth-year public history course taught by LA&PS history Professor Jennifer Bonnell.

“Public history describes the diverse ways that history is encountered and understood by the public beyond the walls of the traditional classroom, in sites such as monuments and memorials, museums and archives, documentary film, and family history albums,” said Bonnell.

The course offers experiential education placements with over 20 organizations – museums, archives, heritage and historical associations – in the Greater Toronto Area, including the City of Toronto, the Archives of Ontario, Black Creek Pioneer Village, the Peel Art Gallery and the Markham Museum.

“Markham Museum is one of our top placement sites for its provision of high-quality training and supervision for placement students in the areas of collections management, exhibition development and public programming,” said Bonnell.

The placements at public and institutional archives and libraries are designed to provide students with the opportunity to combine primary and secondary research with public outreach, such as educational programming, event coordination and community engagement experience.

Sarah Persichitti standing next to her first exhibit case displayed at the Markham Civic Centre

Intern Sarah Persichitti standing next to her first exhibit case displayed at the Markham Civic Centre

“The Markham Museum provides postsecondary students with high-quality and culturally rich placement opportunities as part of their educational journey,” said Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti. “Our staff ensures that students receive the relevant experience needed to set them up for success in their future careers.”

This month, the Markham Museum is entering its fourth year of accepting York students in its placement program. In the past, students have piloted education programs for older adults, conducted research using the museum’s collections and created independent exhibit projects for outreach programs, among other significant activities.

“Markham Museum is, at its core, an educational institution, and we are delighted to work with students of all ages and abilities,” said museum curator Janet Reid, who said she enjoys the fresh perspectives students offer. “We look forward to continuing this partnership as the City of Markham’s relationship with the University grows. Students from York University’s Public History program arrive well prepared for their placements and are eager to learn. As upper-year students, they are capable of independent work and we are able to offer them relevant and challenging experiences.”

Intern Ohan Stamboulian working in the Markham Museum blacksmith’s shop

Intern Ohan Stamboulian working in the Markham Museum blacksmith’s shop

In the 2015-16 academic year, York students Ohan Stamboulian and Sarah Persichitti interned at the Markham Museum under the supervision of Reid and program coordinator Lindsay Bontoft. After their internships ended, Reid hired them to work at the museum through the summer months and into the fall.

Stamboulian almost missed out on the opportunity to enrol in HIST 4840: Public History, which offered the internship potential. He had seriously considered graduating with a three-year bachelor’s degree, but chose the four-year honours degree instead.

“This is when I was introduced to the museum field and my life changed completely,” said Stamboulian, who worked at the Markham Museum as a curatorial intern from January to April 2016, then was hired as an educational program instructor at the museum and then as a historical interpreter at the Whitchurch-Stouffville Museum. “I am in absolute love with my line of work in the museum field, and I owe it all to my public history internship under the Experiential Education program.”

Persichitti chose to double major in history and anthropology because she knew she wanted to pursue a career in museums.

“My internship at Markham Museum provided me with the opportunity to learn about museum practices, something that a classroom cannot teach," Persichitti said. "The placement involved the creation of a single case exhibit of my own to be on display at the Markham Civic Centre, teaching me exhibit design skills, artifact handling skills, conservation management and many other practices involved in creation work. The program offers students the ability to put classroom lessons into action and learn great employability skills.”

After her internship, she was hired as the museum’s curatorial collections assistant for the summer.

“I was fortunate in my own education to participate in several work placements that had a significant impact on my career," said Reid. "I try to ensure that each student has an equally valuable experience based on their personal interests and level of motivation. Work placements help students understand the challenges and rewards of the industry before they make the commitment to more advanced training.”

Both Stamboulian and Persichitti have made that commitment, with Stamboulian applying to various museum studies programs for September and Persichitti now studying museum management and curatorship.

If any faculty, student or community partner is interested in pursuing internship options, contact the LA&PS Global & Community Engagement office at

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