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Be Brave and Be Bold!

Posted on May 13, 2020 at 4:00 PM by Allison Sheridan

Several years ago, University Museums was the feature of the Iowa State Fair ISU booth, promoting our beautiful and artful campus. During the long shifts working in the booth you meet so many interesting people, however the highlight for me that year was a lovely mother daughter duo I met. The mother introduced her daughter, telling me she was coming to Iowa State as a freshman, and that she was interested in the arts/museums/history. I gave her my best pitch for internships with University Museums, provided the young high school graduate with my contact information and thought I would likely never see this young lady again. 

Days later, during another State Fair shift, up walked Sonya Harwood, Iowa State Fair beauty queen, in full glam, crown and sash looking like every little girl's princess fairy tale! She confidently came up to me and expressed how deeply intrigued and interested she was in the internship opportunity. I told her to take her first semester to adjust to college life and that I would see her at the start of spring semester. Yes, I hired her on the spot amid the chaos of the State Fair to foster the fledgling love of museums in a vivacious 18-year-old! 

Several months later during her first semester at ISU, Sonya emailed her continued interest in starting her museum internship and in January that year she began what was to become a college career-long series of internships. At just 18 years old, Sonya expressed a passion for the arts and history rarely seen in students her age. She is a dedicated worker, adventurer, and creative soul.  She has helped to move 25,000 objects out of our storage in the Brunnier to prepare for renovation, inventoried and catalogued thousands of objects, curated the exhibition at the Farm House Museum Timeless: Love and Romance in the Victorian Era, hosted over a hundred tours and talks, worked diligently on our exhaustive Museum Systems database, photographed objects, trained other interns, set up budgets and schedules, created tea time at the Farm House, and even recruited the current Pohlman Fellow, Sarah Bartlett, to join the museum internship program. Sonya is a wonderful advocate for history, culture, and museums. She has traveled and interned to expand her learning opportunities and is continuing, after her graduation this week from ISU, to a master's program in the South. 

This past semester, Sonya's last at ISU, has been difficult with virtual work, and sadly, a virtual graduation, a real-life milestone so deserved for her academic success. She has treated the quarantine with grace and humility and continues to create her own path through the new landscape of higher ed. A highlight this semester was most certainly Sonya's February engagement to her long-time beau on the front porch of the Farm House Museum! They will be married later this summer. 

That mother daughter duo I met on a hot crowded day at the State Fair has led to so much more -- a lasting friendship with mom, Janet, as she volunteered to help with everything from polishing silver (her favorite) to helping Sonya host events, and a mentorship that has marked my heart forever. Seeing Sonya, the 18-year-old beauty queen, develop into a young lady - knowledgeable, resourceful, and enthusiastic. I couldn't be prouder, she is one of many interns that I have had over my nearly 19 years at University Museums, but is absolutely tops in my book! I cannot wait to see where life and career take her in the coming years. 

Best wishes to you, Sonya, on your next adventures from all of us at University Museums. It has been an absolute pleasure! Be brave and be bold!

 Intern Sonya Harwood give a curator's tour of her 2018 exhibition at the Farm House Museum Timeless: Love & Romance in the Victorian Era.

BOTTOM LEFT: Intern Sonya Harwood shows an antique stereoscope to some young visitors to the Farm House Museum.
BOTTOM MIDDLE: Harwood speaks about the University Museums' collection during a 2018 program entitled "Into the Vault."
BOTTOM RIGHT: She said yes! Harwood's now-fiancee Mathew Johnson proposes to her in front of her favorite place on the Iowa State campus, the Farm House Museum.

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