Plugged In

College student finds a home for her skills and passion in the Archaeology Lab

Friday, February 15, 2019
Posted by
Rachel Wong

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Abigail Thomsen
Archaeology lab intern Abigail Thomsen gained experience in the field during the Woodland Archaeology Field School in summer 2018. Then, she volunteered her time in the Archaeology Lab, where she cataloged and analyzed the things she found in the field.

On Saturday, February 16, from noon to 4 p.m, the Science Museum will host our annual Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) event to celebrate and inspire female scientists and leaders of today and tomorrow. Abigail Thomsen, a Macalester College student and an intern in the Science Museum's Archaeology Lab, is one of the new generation of up-and-coming female scientists. She shared more about the experience and perspective she is gaining from working in the lab.

What department do you volunteer with? What project are you working on right now?
I volunteer in the Archaeology Lab as an Archaeology Lab Methods Intern. I help out with artifact analysis—from cleaning and sorting to analyzing and accessioning. Sometimes I help out on excavations! In the past few weeks, I have been cataloguing lithics from an Oneota site in Goodhue County. I identify the tool type, the raw material, and analyze usewear.

What made you decide to start volunteering at the Science Museum?
I started volunteering after I was an assistant for last summer's Woodland Archaeology Field School. I spent a few weeks at the museum cataloguing, analyzing, and accessioning artifacts from that excavation, and I knew this was an environment I wanted to continue to be in.

Do you have a memorable moment/favorite memory from volunteering here?
My favorite moment was the Behind the Scenes Open House in July, when I spent three hours talking to visitors about my field experience. There was an adorable three-year-old boy who asked fantastic questions, despite not having the vocabulary to articulate all his ideas!

How do you think your internship at the Science Museum will help you with your career goals in the future?
I have always loved the museum environments, while still being critical of their potential to present some histories while erasing others. The Science Museum's approach to archaeology is one of justice—they help to return stolen cultural material and knowledge to those from whom it was stolen. I know my experience here will help me bring a justice-based approach to any other museum or anthropology/archaeology-related job I may pursue in the future.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I would read as many books as possible and make a lot of art.

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning a medal for?
Harry Potter trivia. I had a Beta Fish that I named Ciceron, after Ciceron Harkiss, a once-mentioned member of Slughorn's "Slug Club" in the sixth book. I also learned how to do such a good British accent from listening to the books on tape that I was hired for a voice-over part for a British character when I was 12.

What is something people are surprised to learn about you?
When I was little, I wanted to be on Broadway and also be a Theoretical Astrophysicist. I have since realized neither of those are the right career options for me.

Meet more inspiring female leaders in STEM like Abigail during Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and experience hands-on science with females who work in engineering and related fields on February 16 from noon to 4 p.m. This event will feature pop-up learning stations, one-on-one interaction with scientists, and other activities. Get your free Metro Transit pass to the event at smm.org/wise. See you there!


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