Elizabeth Bjordal, Class of 2013
With its focus being, “access to education, opportunity to serve,” the Bonner Scholar program has been a definitive part of the DePauw University campus for 19 years. Each year the newly selected Bonner Scholars come to campus for an early orientation session. The goal is to familiarize the scholars with the Greencastle community, discuss social justice issues, and understand the Bonner Scholars’ role on campus. One such Bonner Scholar, Elizabeth Bjordal, or Liz for short, was asked in August 2009 to decide what kind of community service she would be interested in exploring. During the orientation it was only one mile away from the center of campus that Liz saw her potential placement, or semester volunteer site. That site was The Putnam County Museum (PCM). The PCM strives “to collect, preserve, and interpret the natural, historical and cultural heritage of Putnam county and its people through education, exhibits and special programs.”
In the Putnam County Museum resides some of the counties oldest artifacts and historical information. Historical artifacts from important landmarks such as DePauw University, founded in 1837 as Indiana Asbury College; the Central National Bank, victim of John Dillinger’s biggest heist in 1933; the site of Eli Lilly’s first pharmacy (1861); and the place where William H. Herndon wrote the first biography of Lincoln. This museum preserves and revitalizes the culture of the county. Liz saw this site as her opportunity to further her learning and to improve the community she just became a part of. She enjoyed her time with the museum so much she continued to volunteer there the entire academic year, volunteering almost 280 hours.
Unable to say goodbye, Liz decided to spend her summer at the museum as well, this time as a summer intern. Summer long internships are another aspect of the Bonner Scholar program. “It was an easy transition to go from volunteering here during the school year to working here over the summer,” Liz says. “I started my internship knowing exactly what I needed to do and what to expect.” With help from the Bonner Scholar program, Liz has found a niche within the community where she can make a difference. Since Liz started her internship in May 2010 she has seen multiple projects to completion and continues to help maintain and run the museum. One project she took on was the restoration of a round barn that stands in the museum. The barn serves as a play place and discovery zone for young children. Apart from making sure the barn is child proof, Liz can describe the significance and popularity round barns played in the county.She planned every detail of her exhibit, Liz says, “I wanted to make sure the barn had educational and fun aspects to it. The play train set demonstrates the impact railroad commerce had and still has on Putnam County.” Even the play animals and other toys have reference to Putnam County and represent the culture in some way. During her internship, other students from the DePauw student body came to volunteer, and they looked to Liz for guidance. Students with the “Servicio en las Americas,” a DePauw Spanish immersion trip, came to offer their time to the museum. Liz, using the Spanish she learned, instructed the students in setting up the new Native American exhibit the museum plans to feature.
Whether it is coordinating the other volunteers that come into the museum, or working on her exhibit, Liz enjoys the opportunity to educate and improve her community. The Bonner Scholar program helps nurture these experiences, providing the resources to learn and serve. For Liz, the Putnam County Museum is a great fit for her interests and ideals.