James Miller, right, participates in musketry demonstrations during Living History Day.

James Miller: Internship Spotlight

James Miller shares experiences from his summer internship at Allegheny Portage Railroad.

James Miller is a senior from Ashville, Pennsylvania, majoring in history and English. He interned over the summer at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania.


James Miller on duty in the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

James Miller on duty in the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center

Credit: Provided - James Miller

I always knew that I wanted to intern at Allegheny Portage Railroad. It's such an interesting place, and even a lot of locals don't realize the significance of it to the area.

I really enjoyed my internship. I was able to do a lot of different things, and from that I learned how important it is to have a willingness to be flexible. I might have gone in one day and staffed the Visitor Center and the next I’d be doing research in the Lemon House, or maybe assisting one of the rangers with a program. Some days I’d move between tasks. Not having a set routine kept things interesting for me.

I did some research for the park on Jacob Green, an escaped slave from Virginia who used the Allegheny Portage Railroad as a transportation route to help five other slaves escape. I also investigated the history of the National Park Service. As a history major, being able to do so much research was interesting and exciting for me.

The ranger programs at the park were a lot of fun. Paired with a ranger, I could be assisting with stone cutting or rope making demonstrations or dressed in costume interacting with visitors. The park held its annual Living History Day in July, and I portrayed a local militiaman in a live musket demonstration for the public. I had to learn some basic musket drills and take a test to get certified through the National Park Service for it. That definitely wasn’t something I thought I’d be doing at my internship, but it was fun. I had a good time with it.

One of my favorite duties was being in the Visitor Center when children came in to do the Junior Ranger Program. They get a little booklet with a series of activities in it. When they complete it, they get a Junior Ranger badge. The kids really like it, and they get excited about it, so that was always fun to see.

James Miller, second from left, participates in musketry demonstrations during Living History Day.

James Miller, second from left, participates in musketry demonstrations during Living History Day.

Credit: Provided - James Miller

After so much isolation from the coronavirus pandemic, it was nice to get back into interacting with people face to face. I loved meeting people from different backgrounds, from different parts of the country and hearing their stories. I learned a lot and was exposed to different perspectives.

Studying the humanities opens a lot of doors as far as employment after graduation. My internship experience gave me some good insight into the National Park Service, and I’m keeping it as an option. I'm also going to explore graduate school and figure out if that’s a good next step for me. I plan to talk with my professors about it because they’ve been fantastic in helping me navigate my college career so far. Their advice will be helpful.


To learn more about history internships, contact Doug Page, teaching professor of history and history program coordinator, at [email protected].