It was a random email that set Ian Lilligren on a professional path he never thought he’d take.
“I wasn’t interested in museums,” Lilligren said. “I never thought I’d work in one.”
The email introduced Lilligren to the History Museum Fellows Program, a partnership between the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the Minnesota Historical Society. Lilligren would soon graduate from the University of Minnesota with a degree in American Indian Studies and decided to give the Fellows Program a chance.
Throughout the summer of 2011, Lilligren and other fellows worked in paid internships at the Minnesota History Center. In a class at the University the previous spring, fellows learned about the many facets of the Society. It was a lesson about the Society’s Exhibits department that hooked Lilligren.
“Exhibits staff told us that you have to be creative, you’re constantly challenged and you work with all kinds of different people,” Lilligren recalled.
Lilligren interned in Exhibits, researching primary sources for the upcoming exhibit about the U.S.-Dakota
War of 1862. He found himself eager to come to work every day.
“The fellowship showed me how you can apply the skills you learned in college to any real world profession,” Lilligren said.
Fellows gain valuable work experience that can be applied to other museums, tribal organizations and cultural institutions.
Lilligren’s internship has translated into a job in the Exhibits department—a job he never could have foreseen back in the spring.
“It worked out perfectly,” Lilligren said. “I didn’t expect to get a career out of this.”