Aaron Shuman, a 2021 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has been recognized as the 2022 Public History Graduate Student of the Year by the Arkansas Museums Association.
The award is granted to a graduate student in the area of museum, public history, archival management, or a related field who has shown academic excellence with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and has a minimum of 12 hours completed in the program. The successful nominee demonstrates initiative and leadership skills, has shown a willingness to collaborate with faculty, staff, and other graduate students, and is committed to working in the museum, public history, archival management, or related field.
A native of Graham, Washington, Shuman joined UA Little Rock’s public history graduate program in January 2020, just one day after leaving service in the U.S. Air Force.
He graduated at the end of the fall 2021 semester, after completing his thesis on the ways that presidential funerals reflect the lives and values of American presidents. He now works as the museum experience coordinator at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. The museum preserves and exhibits the material history of the war in the Pacific and Indo-China during World War II.
“Earning this award was a really pleasant surprise,” Shuman said. “Settling into my new job has shown all types of challenges to me, especially in converting theory to practice with historical interpretation. When my former supervisor asked if I wanted to come down, it was not only a chance to reflect on my successes in school and my internship, but also a wonderful chance to look at how far I’ve come in establishing myself with a history career.”
Shuman completed two summer internships during 2020 and 2021 at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. During his first internship, Shuman’s work was focused on completing a photographic inventory of the museum’s collection. After completing an audit of the existing state of the inventory, he photographed or scanned nearly 1,500 items and moved the files into the collection database. When he had completed this main project, Shuman worked to standardize the file naming protocols for the 24,000 items in the database in order to improve search capabilities.
During his second internship, Shuman’s work focused on uploading nearly 5,000 World War II photographs from the museum’s Allison Collection to a digital web exhibit. These photographs, accompanied by their original captions, are now stored where the public can easily access them for viewing and research.
“Aaron’s two internships provided experience in collections management, exhibit development and installation, as well as educational programming, which has already served him well in his work at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas,” said Stephan McAteer, executive director of the MacArthur Museum. “Aaron’s work at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History was stellar. His attention to detail and cooperative spirit made him a valuable addition. He was an outstanding intern and worked well with both staff and museum visitors.”
Beyond his main project, Shuman augmented full-time museum staff at numerous education outreach events with local schools as part of the City of Little Rock’s Summer Playground Program and took over front desk duties when staff was called away for off-location events. In the exhibit space, he removed and stowed an exhibit before providing assistance in the installation of “Undaunted Courage,” an exhibit examining the contributions of Japanese Americans in WWII.
“What I learned there has been invaluable to me in my new job,” Shuman said. “It instilled in me a confidence that I could perform at this level in this field.”