Concentrations/Minors: BA in Modern Greek and Art History, Museum Studies Minor
Why did you decide to pursue the museum studies minor?
I can’t really remember a time that I didn’t like museums. When I was growing up, I loved playing and learning in science and children’s museums. As I grew older, I gained an appreciation for art and history museums as means of deeper exploration and application of what I had learned in school. For some reason, I’ve just always been fascinated by objects – not only their physical characteristics but also the stories that they do, and don’t, tell. When the new museum studies minor was announced at the end of my junior year at Michigan, I was more than intrigued to learn about the underlying why’s and how’s of all the museums I had visited over the years.
How did the museum studies minor impact your other fields of study?
It seemed like a natural complement to my art history major – a way of putting all of the theory and history I had learned into practice. With modern Greek, the connection was not as readily apparent at first. Gradually learning about the various roles and interpretations of objects in different cultures, though, helped me better understand how museums and their preservation of Greek objects – from ancient to modern – has influenced the formation of modern Greek culture and society.
What was your favorite class that you took for the minor requirements and why?
Elaine Gazda’s museums class. Her approach was both discussion- and experience-based, which was very engaging. We also took a weekend field trip to New York City to meet with curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and tour as many museums as possible in about 36 hours. Many of our other classes were held at local museums and involved discussions with other museum professionals.
How was your internship experience?
I was lucky enough to have two internships – one to fulfill the internship requirement and the other qualifying as an elective. At the Map Library, I helped compile an annotated bibliography of potential atlases for an upcoming Mediterranean exhibit. I had the opportunity to leaf through incredible atlases held by the U of M library system and assume the thought process of a curator – deciding on what pieces would be compelling and why. In my other internship, I worked with a team from the School of Education – composed of a professor and two graduate students – that was creating a new world history curriculum for Michigan middle school students. I acted as a museum consultant of sorts, developing ways to reinforce the curriculum with objects held by the numerous University of Michigan museums. Both were valuable, entertaining learning experiences that helped me see the utility and value of museums beyond the typical public visitor experience.
Which museums has the minor led you to be involved in?
While I was at Michigan, the minor led me to be involved with the UMMA, Exhibit Museum of Natural History, and the Map Library in a range of capacities – student docent, tour guide, curriculum planner, and exhibit researcher. Right after graduation, I went to work as an Elizabeth Perkins Fellow at the Museums of Old York in my home state of Maine. Here, I collaborated with two other fellows in planning the reinterpretation of an 18th-century historic tavern building. This past spring, while studying at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine, I completed a project with the Wilson Museum – a small but very diverse museum on the coast – helping to revitalize their membership program. Now that I’m living in San Diego, I’m looking forward to becoming involved in the vast array of museums that the city is home to.
How do you feel your life at the university and beyond has been and will be affected by pursuing a museum studies minor?
The word that first comes to mind is enrichment. At the university, my involvement in the museum studies minor led to a number of unique, memorable learning experiences: the digital curation project, a field trip to New York City, browsing through centuries old atlases, and handling artifacts from Paleolithic peoples. Even after graduating from Michigan, my understanding and appreciation of museums has led to many incredible experiences, both professional and personal. Going forward, I know that I will continue to seek out opportunities to be involved in museums – it’s just too rewarding and continuously fascinating to forgo.
Why would you recommend a student to pursue a museum studies minor?
For anyone who has ever had a memorable experience at a museum, zoo, theme park, or even retail store, enjoyable or otherwise, I think the museum studies minor imparts a valuable and rewarding understanding of our interactions and relationships with the material (and, in some cases, even immaterial) world. For me, it helped me satisfy my curiosity of why I have been drawn to museums, why I enjoy looking at and learning about objects. Interestingly, I also came to understand why I have not enjoyed some museums. For this reason, I would recommend the museum studies minor to museum lovers and strangers alike. Also, although I did not realize it at the time, I gained a great amount of business management knowledge. This proved quite valuable during my graduate work in global logistics and allowed me to contribute a different perspective – i.e., that of the not-for-profit world – to discussions and in my coursework.
Where do you see museums fitting into your future?
Hopefully always closely, whether it be personally or professionally. Even though I’m not working in the field currently, I would love to someday pursue a director position – once I have gained the business management experience it requires. After I have settled into my new world here on the west coast, I plan to begin seeking out opportunities to become involved at museums in San Diego – my life just wouldn’t feel complete without it.
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