History major looks to the past for future opportunity

by Matt Overing

Jasmine Eleck '24 at the Field Museum in Chicago.

One Centre College student has taken experiential learning to a historic level.

Through her work exploring history, Jasmine Eleck has discovered a path for her future career.

The rising senior from Eureka, California has spent her summer working at the Field Museum in Chicago — an opportunity that would not have been possible without Centre College’s Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) and its assistant director, Nate Meissner.

 “I studied abroad in Bhutan and was able to intern at the National Library and Archives and did some conservation work. That interested me, and I wanted to explore it further, and (Meissner) helped me out with the whole process.”

Eleck, a history major, said her internship experiences — first in Bhutan and then in Chicago — have cemented her interest in museum studies.

Jasmine Eleck '24 posed for a photo outside of the Field Museum in Chicago.
Jasmine Eleck '24 posed for a photo outside of the Field Museum in Chicago.

The Field Museum, located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, has a mission to “connect the natural world and the human story,” and boasts a collection of more than 40 million items. Its internships are some of the country’s most prestigious in museum studies.

Eleck works with the Native North American Ethnographic and Archaeological Collections and spends her days helping oversee more than 700,000 items and archeological pieces. She also assists with handling of the objects — one of her favorites was a narwhal spear made by a group of indigenous peoples in Greenland — and contributes to managing the museum’s database.

“I have the immense privilege to work with items ranging in age from across North America,” she said. “Seeing how large and diverse indigenous populations used their knowledge of the natural world to thrive in their homelands.”

Through these hands-on internship experiences and her education at Centre, Eleck said she’s prepared for post-graduate opportunities in a museum. She said she has learned in classes at Centre about repatriation — the sourcing of artifacts or returning artifacts to their country of origin — but has learned even more about the process at the Field Museum.

Between her internship in Bhutan and her current role in Chicago, Eleck noted that she’s received a well-rounded mix of opportunities. In Bhutan, she was focused on conservation and cultural preservation. With the Field Museum, Eleck’s work is centered on collection management.

“Both are hands-on, this is just a much larger scale,” she said. “I'm interacting a lot with the anthropology department across all different avenues, like conservators, archivists, things like that. Both experiences have been really great — they definitely got me hooked.

“I always knew that I could work in a museum one day, and it was something I could use my degree for. But it wasn’t really sparking my interest until I realized that it’s not a lot of sitting down, it’s hands-on work, which is what really drew me in, how active and dynamic it is.”

For that career focus, Eleck thanks Meissner and the CCPD. Meissner helped prepare her for the application process, mock interviews, resume tips and more.

“They want to see us all succeed,” Eleck said. “I had no idea where to begin looking for internships or the possibilities out there. It’s also very fulfilling — (Meissner) was the first person I told when I got the internship. It was such a joyful moment.”