Elijah Palmer at the Lego Shipbuilding Exhibit, Half Moone Cruise Center
Elijah Palmer (M.A., 2016) is Deputy Director of Education at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.
Describe your work and activities at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.
I am currently Deputy Director of Education at the museum. I go to schools and present a variety of education programs, develop new programs, and help the director of education in running the department (4 other educators). I also do exhibit research, help run some of the social media, and fill in where needed. For instance, the past six months I've worn two hats, continuing to coordinate all the museum's events (my old position) as we transitioned some duties to new positions.
Are there both special challenges and special rewards related to work in Public History at the HRNM?
I think our smaller staff at HRNM fosters a sense of community and enables us to collaborate on a wide variety of projects. It's really is like a family atmosphere. Being a smaller museum and having collaboration also opens the door to being able to explore different aspects of museum work that might not be normally open to certain positions. I think one of the best things about working in public history is getting to educate the public in some fashion. If every guest leaves knowing even one more thing about the Navy or local history than they did when they entered the museum (or heard our education program), then we've completed our mission. That can be challenging to do in a fresh, meaningful way sometimes, but it is very rewarding.
What skills and intellectual experiences did you acquire in the M.A. program at ODU that have served you well in your subsequent career?
I think having my research and analytical skills honed further during the M.A. program has had a positive effect on my work, especially regarding exhibit research and museum program research. On a broader level, the classroom experience during the program has been helpful in my museum work. The sharing or arguing of ideas, as well as listening, that was common in classes has been beneficial in collaborating in the workplace.
Which professors do you remember and why from the Department of History at Old Dominion University?
I would have to say Dr. Orr and Dr. Bebber stand out the most, but I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention Dr. Zanoni and Dr. Hametz. All of them shaped my studies in some way and always made class interesting and challenging.
What new areas of historical inquiry have you explored since leaving ODU?
Aside from looking into the Navy for work, I've also been researching my grandfather's WWII experiences (using his letters as the main primary sources). He was a Harvard graduate and eventually went into ministry after the war, so he wasn't your typical Marine! I hope to publish some sort of book based on his experiences.
What do you enjoy about working in downtown Norfolk?
I think the best thing about working downtown is that the museum is right on the river. It might not be as scenic as the beach, but having an open space and a breeze is hard to beat most days.