SALEM — As Jessica Barry pored over journals, sometimes 300 pages per day, she was swept into the awe that gripped early polar explorers as they discovered the magnificent uncharted landscape.
Barry extracted quotes from the journals and correlated them to paintings now featured at the Peabody Essex Museum to build an interactive Web experience that complements the new exhibit, "To the Ends of the Earth, Painting the Polar Landscape."
"Reading the journals of all the expeditions I read some really cool stuff," said Barry, 21, a senior at Endicott College who is a fall intern at PEM.
"It gave me a whole bird's-eye view of what exploration was like in the 1800s and 1900s, and it's great that (my work) will be a permanent fixture on the Internet."
The museum offers paid internships every semester to local high school and college students, ages 16 to 21, in an array of departments, such as graphic design, collections management, exhibit construction and merchandising.
"It's really designed to give students access to the museum's world," said Whitney Riepe, a PEM spokeswoman.
As an intern in the Maritime Department, Barry worked on "Polar Landscape," which just opened on Saturday. She said her college doesn't offer maritime history, so her semester at PEM has been a boon that she relayed with excitement.
"History is more than just facts," said Barry, of Beverly. "History is an experience, and it's truly mind-blowing what these explorers, scientists and artists contributed to the wealth of what we know of the North and South poles."
From marketing to membership
The Peabody Essex Museum's internship program, called the Museum Action Corps (MAC), employs up to 30 to 40 interns per semester. High school-age interns log 200 hours. College interns work 400 hours, which translates to a full-time schedule.