The following post is written by Filson summer employee William Schuhmann.
My name is Will Schuhmann. I am 17 years old and will be a senior next year at Ballard High School. I have been an intern at the Filson Historical Society since July 12th through Mayor’s Summer Works: a seven-week program where Louisville youth are paid by the city to work at various places around town to gain work experience. These past 4 weeks have been unbelievable. As an intern, I have a lot of various jobs to do. Most of the time, I can be found on the third floor of the Ferguson Mansion cataloging various architectural plans with Johna Ebling. I just recently finished looking through the plans for the James P. Boyce Library Building and the School of Church Music at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Oertel Brewing Company, and the First Christian Church downtown. I am slowly, but surely working my way through the Filson’s large collection of plans done by the architect Joseph Kolbrook.
Besides cataloging, on Fridays I help with the Filson’s Family Friendly Fridays, which are part of the city's Cultural Pass program. In late May, I gave a presentation on Camp Zachary Taylor with the Ballard High School History Club, so being able to share my knowledge of the First World War with younger kids is entertaining and meaningful. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to show people a German Gewehr 98 rifle from World War I. A volunteer docent from the Speed Museum who comes in on Fridays for the family event started bringing in some items of her own for the kids to hold. When she said she was bringing in artifacts, I was expecting more like photos and that kind of thing. I was wrong. This past Friday she brought in a trench knife, a pineapple grenade, an American helmet whose owner had gotten bored in the trenches and decided to paint it, and a German helmet with a soldier’s mother’s address painted on the top to be mailed home.
Not many people my age are given the opportunity to hold history in their hands daily and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the summer. Since the Filson’s recent renovation, there is now more storage space for the Filson’s massive collections. Because of this, I could work with Maureen Lane, the Filson's Registrar on unpacking and properly storing the artifacts located within boxes upon boxes. Some of the more memorable things we unpacked included a box with “Do not Drop, Cannon Ball Inside” written on it and a World War II uniform. It turned out that the cannon ball box also contained a Bowie knife, artillery sword, and revolver from the Civil War. This task was one of my favorite things to do at work because you never knew what was in a box until you opened it. A box could contain anything from Native-American shoes to early twentieth-century firemen patches.
Overall, I think my summer at the Filson has been a great experience that has helped me decide what exactly I want to do in college and beyond. The staff here couldn’t be more funny and helpful, which makes working here all the better.