Preserving the Personal

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Makayla Rawlins has never visited Washington, D.C., much less been to one its internationally renowned museums. But that will change in June, when the UC Santa Barbara undergraduate student moves to the nation’s capital for a summer internship with the Smithsonian Institution.Rawlins, a descendent of the Luiseño tribe with a passion for indigenous art, will spend 10 weeks working with a mentor in the conservation department at the National Museum of the American Indian Cultural Resources Center. She is one of only 14 students to receive this internship opportunity.  
For Rawlins, the conservation of indigenous artifacts is deeply personal. “My interest in museum conservation is connected to my passion for conserving native and indigenous artifacts and giving back to my community,” she said. “I know that these artifacts can be stored incorrectly and handled without care, so I want to be able to take care of them with respect.”
A junior at UCSB majoring in art history and biological anthropology — and minoring in American Indian and indigenous studies — Rawlins credits her interdisciplinary fields of study with preparing her for a busy summer of work and education. “One thing I love about my major is that it has connected me to so many other disciplines that have come to intrigue me,” she commented. “Thanks to my art history major, I am able to take my knowledge of contextualization and of museum studies into this internship, as well as what I have learned about my own culture in the process.”
During her internship, Rawlins hopes to further her independent research into Hopi Kachina dolls, and to use that research as the basis for a senior thesis project.
“I chose to apply to this particular museum because of my native heritage,” she said. “I wanted to be in a museum setting that is culturally enriched and will allow me to learn more …

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