Students You Should Know: Molly Franta

Molly Franta, a UNI senior majoring in history and theatre, spent two years trying to land an internship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. She finally reached that goal during the summer of 2013 and spent eight weeks interning at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

FOOD Exhibit
Open Table is part of the exhibition FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000. At the Open Table, museum visitors can take a seat at a large, communal table and engage in conversation about food-related issues and topics.

During her dream-come-true internship, Franta worked on the exhibition FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000, which explores some of the major changes in food and wine in postwar America. As an intern she researched and wrote object labels, which give a brief history for each object for the online version of the FOOD exhibition; handled and re-housed objects in collections storage; and helped plan Food in the Garden, a weekly event that brought together foodies, historians, gardeners and researchers to talk about where food comes from and how it's grown.

"My honors thesis, which I will complete this year, is about American food history and involves a public display component," said Franta, "so I knew that working with this exhibition would give me tremendous experience.

"Food is something that connects us all," she continued, "and the FOOD exhibition's 50-year time frame connects young people with adults who lived through the topics that are discussed. One of my favorite things was seeing parents point at an object or story on display and say to their child, 'I remember that!'"

Washington, D.C., is a long way from Franta's hometown of Elkader, a community of around 1,200 people in northeast Iowa. It didn't take long for her to adjust to big-city life, however.

"It was a very stimulating environment to live in," she said. "I was surrounded by all sorts of future leaders – every young person I met was interning somewhere equally impressive. It connected me with a lot of successful people working in the museum field, and I now have a good idea of what it would be like to work full time at a major museum and what that job would entail."

After she graduates in December 2013, Franta plans to attend graduate school to study history or food studies. Learn more about the Smithsonian's FOOD exhibition at