Southeast Missouri State University historic preservation major Deanna Statler has anchored this summer at the nation’s leading maritime museum in Mystic, Connecticut, a facility with more than 500 historic watercraft on grounds covering more than 19 acres, including a 19th-century coastal village.
Statler is in her element as an intern at G.W. Blunt White Library, the research library for Mystic Seaport—The Museum of America and The Sea in southeastern Connecticut. The adjacent historic village takes visitors back to the mid-1800s where they learn how people earned their living from the sea.
“I started looking for museums and research centers near my father’s apartment, and Mystic Seaport came up on my search results,” Statler said. “When I visited my father during Fall Break 2015, we decided to visit Mystic Seaport. As soon as I stepped on the grounds, I knew it was a place I would love to work.”
At the G.W. Blunt White Library, Statler has been assigned a project focusing on inventorying and processing a recently donated collection of papers dating from the 1910s through the 1940s about William Starling Burgess, a famous naval architect. She says she occasionally spends time at the reference desk and monitors the research area while reference librarians retrieve collection items for researchers.
“I have continued to learn the lessons I started learning during my job at Special Collections and Archives in Kent Library: time management, working with the public and working with historic documents safely,” Statler said.
Using historic documents and artifacts to get other people excited about history is what drives Statler.
“A lot of people I talk to think that history is boring and that there is no point in studying it,” she said. “I say otherwise, and I can use my knowledge, my skills and my passion about history to help others see how much fun history can be.”
Statler is originally from Cape Girardeau but because she was a military child, she never lived in Cape until relocating to the city in fall 2014 to attend Southeast. She is currently treasurer of Southeast’s Historic Preservation Association and a member of the Student Veterans Organization.
Her father is a U.S. Navy chaplain stationed at Naval Submarine Base New London near Mystic. She says the best part about her internship is the time she’s getting to spend with him.
“Since I moved back home to Missouri and he moved to Connecticut, I have only been able to see him two to three times a year for a week or two. Living with him for the summer has given me the ability to really enjoy my time with him and not feel rushed to get as much done as I can in the short time I see him,” Statler said. “I get to trade stories with him about our days, bring him lunch at work and spend time in the kitchen together, which is something we both love. This time with my father is invaluable to me.”
When Statler isn’t working, she has found time to enjoy some sites. She has visited the Nathan Lester House Museum for an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration and went to Providence, Rhode Island, to see Celtic Woman in a historic theater. She also has visited Old Mistick Village and downtown Mystic.
She says she began searching for internships in December and January. In February, while working on campus in Kent Library’s archives, she got an email from G. W. Blunt White Library Director Paul O’Pecko offering her the internship, which she said she accepted immediately.
“I hope to take away an understanding of what my life will be like after graduation as well strengthen my archival and professional skills,” Statler said.
After the internship, she says she plans to focus on completing her senior year at Southeast and seeing where her degree takes her into her future.