Dylan Hammond Works to ‘Keep History Alive’

October 7, 2015

Hands-on Experiences Led to Choice Washington DC Internship for WC Senior

Dylan Hammond has a greater understanding of such disasters as the sinking of the Titanic and the Johnstown Flood — and the relief role played by the American Red Cross — after spending the summer among the archives and artifacts related to those and other catastrophes.

(LEFT) Dylan Hammond presents a poster project featuring his historical programs and collections internship with the American Red Cross.

“You get to look at, touch and hold history — it’s an intense experience,” said Hammond, a senior from Eastlake, Ohio, majoring in history and education studies. He possesses a fascination with public history and the role museums and other public depositories of historic and cultural materials play in teaching and learning.

“I want people to see the beauty in history through these things that were left behind.”

The Red Cross selected Hammond from among more than 250 applicants for a historic programs and collections internship at its Washington DC headquarters last summer. He learned from his supervisor, the ARC’s head archivist, that his experiences outside the classroom at Wilmington College vaulted his application to the top of the stack from the start of the exhaustive interview process.

“My experience put me at an advantage over even many graduate candidates for the internship,” he said in referring to his ongoing role over the past four years as a student worker at the Meriam R. Hare Quaker Heritage Center at Wilmington College.

“(QHC curator) Ruth Brindle trained me in handling artifacts and collections management, and the Red Cross uses the same computer software (PastPerfect) as the Quaker Heritage Center,” he said. “I was one of their first interns that already knew the system, which saved them more than two weeks of training.”

Brindle describes Hammond as an “amazing asset” to the QHC.

Last year, based upon his experience and background as a history major trained in research and writing, she turned over large portions of the center’s exhibit research and writing to him. This year, he is spearheading the revision of the QHC’s local history curriculum that’s offered to visiting third grade students, as well as developing an Underground Railroad history curriculum for fourth graders and a high school-level classroom curriculum about the Vietnam War.

DylanHammondWeb3“The level of responsibility Dylan was given as a Quaker Heritage Center student worker is what set him apart from the others who interviewed for the summer internship position at the Red Cross,” Brindle said. “I think that’s something unique to our campus — we see students with ability and skill, and we give them the tools they need to gain real experience that will pay off in the field.”

Hammond agreed that WC’s opportunities for hands-on learning made the difference in his landing such a coveted internship and will help him stand out as he pursues his interest in public history in graduate school and, subsequently, his career.

“At most other places, you don’t get these kinds of experiences,” he said. “I feel our school lives and breathes hands-on learning.”

For three months this summer, Hammond was “part of the flow” of the Nation’s Capital. He had the good fortune of staying at the William Penn House, a Quaker-run residence that is several blocks from the U.S. Capitol, and his morning commute found him transformed into the stereotypical Washingtonian “carrying my briefcase with a coffee and newspaper to catch the train.”

His nightly run took him from the Capitol to a tour of the national monuments and back.

The Red Cross complex on 17th St. is several blocks from the White House. His duties included giving tours of the facility, handling information requests and working with historic conservation and collections management.

Through his work with the Red Cross archives, Hammond gained special insight into such events as the Johnstown Flood, which left 2,209 dead after a breached dam caused a massive flash flood in that Pennsylvania city in 1889. The Red Cross was in Johnstown for disaster relief, as it was in the early 20th century when survivors of the 1912 Titanic disaster arrived in New York City along with families and friends uncertain of the fate of loved ones.

Red Cross artifacts and original documents from those catastrophes and many others enhance a narrative that exceeds simple historical accounts of events.

“Public history is very different than traditional academic history. It’s about making it so people can better understand history,” he said. “A museum exhibit explains something so people from ages 10 to 80 can understand and relate to it.

“This is what I want to do,” he added.

Back at WC for his senior year, Hammond continues to thrive through campus involvement and other opportunities for leadership development. A member of the swimming and water polo teams, he is president of the Service Leaders Executive Board, vice president of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, resident adviser at Pickett Hall and he works at the QHC and IT Help Desk. He recently added soccer announcer to his repertoire.

“It keeps me busy and gives me a huge range of experiences that have helped me to become a better leader, problem-solver and has increased my ability to think on my feet — plus I’ve gotten to know a lot of people,” he said, noting how the College has provided an atmosphere in which he’s thrived.

“I’m not holding back,” he added. “I’m going for everything. It will all help me for where I want to be in the future.”