Dyer County native selected to intern at Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum
A small-town kid with a pocket full of dreams, 29-year-old Anne Ladyem McDivitt has never spent a day of her life living inside of the metaphorical ‘box’. Even as a tot, she would spend her days imagining she was a cast member from some Disney movie, maybe Ariel or Minnie Mouse; all dreams her mother Donna and father Mitch, carefully nurtured over the years, as they gave their all toward showing her the support she needed to follow her own path in her life. Most importantly, they taught her to never stop dreaming big.
An avid lover of history and die-hard advocate of funding for the NEH [National Endowment for the Humanities], Anne, who has spent the past year as an American history teaching assistant at George Mason University, was recently granted the exceptional opportunity to turn one of her biggest dreams into a reality, as she was extended a summer internship at the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
“I actually applied on a whim thinking that there was no way that I would get it. I really wanted to work for the Smithsonian to try and get more museum experience at the highest level,” said Anne. “Turns out, I did get it! My supervisor at Air and Space told me that I shot straight to the top of her list of candidates when she saw my application, which is extremely exciting.”
Passed down to her by both her father and grandfather, Jimmy McDivitt, Annie’s love for history and sharing it with others, has only increased over time and with the aid of role models like Dr. Robert Cassanello of the University of Central Florida.
“My grandpa and my dad often had the history channel on, so I think it was engrained in me early that history was an important and fun topic. My dad is the source of my interest in space history. He is, to put it bluntly, a space nerd. Growing up with him led to an interest in the Apollo programs, and I think that’s definitely helped a lot going into my internship.
“Dr. Robert Cassanello is someone that I consider to be my role model for history,” added Anne. “He is extremely intelligent, and he is also one of the nicest and most inspirational people in the history field. He taught me a lot as a professor, and he has never hesitated to help give life advice when I’ve needed it.
“I also consider the goals of Dr. Roy Rosenzweig to be inspirational. He wanted good and accurate history to be accessible to all people, rather than just in the university setting. This is what I also am hoping to do, so I keep his work and ideas in mind often when I’m working.”
Along with the influence she has received from the male role models in her life, Anne says much of continued interest in history is accredited to her mother, who has always been a source of inspiration and a large driving force in Anne’s life.
“I think a big reason I wanted to become a historian in the first place can be attributed to my mom taking me to all kinds of historic places when I was a kid,” said Anne. “I distinctly remember a visit to Memphis. Mom took me on the trolley, telling me that I had to experience it at least once. I also remember seeing the Lorraine Motel on that visit. Mom has always been extremely supportive of me wanting to go to historic sites even now, which I very much appreciate.”
While Anne is native to the Dyer County area, her family relocated to the Sunshine State back in 2003, where she spent nearly all of her high school years, before embarking on her journey to college. Anne earned her bachelor’s in history in 2010 followed by her master’s in public history in 2013, both degrees earned from the University of Central Florida.
After obtaining her master’s degree, Anne was invited on a full paid scholarship to attend George Mason University in Washington, D.C., where she continued her education with eyes set on earning a doctorate, and in May of 2018, Anne will have achieved that goal, earning her PhD in public history.
“I went into public history because I like educating others on history, but I did not want to limit the experience to a traditional teaching experience,” said Anne, when sharing her passions towards history.
“I do not think of myself as a teacher really, but I want others to learn about history and find out things about their own world and past that they did not know before. Museums are a great medium to teach people history in a fun way, which is what I really want. I want people to see history as a fun topic to engage with and learn.”
Since embarking on her journey to becoming a historian, Anne says her greatest accomplishments thus far include an exhibit entitled, ‘The Long History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1865-1965’, which highlighted the Civil Rights Movement, and, of course, her invitation to intern at the Smithsonian.
“The exhibit was featured within the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex in Mims, Fla. This project aimed to demonstrate that the civil rights movement did not start in the 1950s, and it highlighted some lesser-known figures. I got to meet the daughter of Harry and Harriette Moore, who was in the house when her parents were murdered by the KKK for being advocates for civil rights.
“When I met her, I felt like I was on the right career track because people were learning of the great acts her parents did for the sake of equality where they did not know anything about them before.
“As to my internship at the Smithsonian, I am working in the curatorial department of Space History at the National Air and Space Museum. I will be working on the ‘Space Race’ exhibit in Space History doing content research, observing guests and gauging their interest in the gallery, and thinking of the future of the exhibit in the museum. I also will be working with the ‘Reboot the Suit’ Project, which aims to conserve and display Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit from Apollo 11 in time for the 50th anniversary of the mission in 2019,” explained Anne.
“There are not many people chosen to work within the museum each year, and it’s a great honor to be among those chosen to work there. I’m hoping that this experience will teach me how to work within a larger museum setting.
“My previous experience has been with small, local museums, and so this is a completely new experience for me. I want to see projects that I’ve worked on in a few years accessible for guests, and hopefully see new visitors learn more about space history. The greatest thing to me is when somebody walks away saying they learned something, and that’s really all I can ask for!”
Currently, Anne is working on the completion of her dissertation, which illustrates the history of the early video-game industry in the United States. She hopes to have the dissertation published as a book in upcoming years.