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Eric Corbie ’20 Enjoys Exploring Innovative Applications Of History

April 17, 2020 History

Eric Corbie collage

The history major is interning at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

By Jessica Weiss ’05

It was a simple extra credit assignment that led history major Eric Corbie ’20 to discover he had a passion for museums — and may want to work in one.  

For a Fall 2018 course entitled “Public Interpretations of African American History,” which explored the ways museums and other historic sites interpret African American history, Corbie visited the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), located on the National Mall. 

He couldn’t believe how much there was to experience and all the creative ways history was presented in the museum. “It really blew my mind,” he said. “I knew then that this is what I want to do: I want to work in this environment.” 

Thanks largely to a passion ignited by that visit, Corbie is now a membership marketing intern at NMAAHC, where he’s focused primarily on doing public outreach to patrons, members and donors. Because his projects are mostly based on the web and in databases, he has been able to continue the internship in spite of the museum’s closure due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

“I was really starting to get used to my routine and meeting people on a regular basis, so I miss that,” he said. “But in terms of still being a part of the program, I consider myself most fortunate.” 

As a student, Corbie has dealt with challenges before. After studying for two years at Frederick Community College, he arrived at UMD in 2013 with the goal to graduate with a B.A. in history and become a history teacher. But the following year, his family faced a number of difficulties, and he took a leave of absence from school to work to support himself. He reapplied to Maryland in 2017. 

Once back on campus, Corbie discovered a newfound interest: the technological innovations and novel applications of history he was learning about, such as in digital humanities. He found he enjoyed learning how to write, edit and fact-check for various online platforms; for one class, he added deeply researched biographical information to historian and travel writer William Least-Heat Moon’s Wikipedia page in accordance with rules concerning tone, copyright, plagiarism and more. 

“I realized that the relevance of studying history as a subject and pursuing it as a career means I had to be familiar with technological advances in the field, too,” he said. “It inspired me to reassert myself into the pathway of history but to be broader with what I could do with it.” 

Corbie plans to pursue a master of library and information science at UMD and eventually work in a curatorial position, such as in a museum, library or archive.

He is grateful to Associate Research Professor Julie Taddeo, who regularly shares internship and job opportunities with students in the history department. And when applying to his current internship, Corbie found a lot of support in University Career Center @ ARHU program director Kate Juhl, who helped him articulate the value of his history education through his resume and other materials. 

He credits his strong skills in communication, collaboration and critical thinking with helping him land his current internship, and thrive in it. His tech savvy has also proven useful during the current crisis: Corbie is working from home, using his digital skills to create and update web pages, contribute to a monthly e-newsletter and edit membership data in an online database. 

“I’ve met a lot of really nice people who have been extremely helpful and encouraging,” he said. “It’s really confirmed the importance of networking and being open-minded.” 

ARHU recently launched “Be Worldwise. Get Worldready.,” a career initiative that blends new and reimagined course offerings, integrated academic and career advising and access to internships, alumni networking and other opportunities across the region. Learn more.