Tag Archives: Seton Hall University

How I Landed a Museum Job

I see so many, hundreds at least, of comments on listservs, message boards, e-mails, etc., from young museum professionals asking questions about whether it’s feasible to work in museums right now or not. Should I go to school for museum professions? Will I ever get a paid job? Does my internship count as qualifiable experience? My answer? Yes.

To all my fellow emerging museum professionals out there, this is my story.

After working in so many museums and getting my bachelors degree in Public Relations, I felt I had learned more of what not to do than what to do. I wanted to be able to do right by my profession and not just make it up as I go. I wanted in depth, correct education about how to design exhibits and handle artifacts, etc.

I graduated with my Masters of Museum Professions in May 2012.  At the age of 25, I had 11 years of experience in museums under my belt. From small town historical societies to The British Museum in London, my time included 2 degrees, 5 internships, 3 jobs, and 7 museums around the world. I had done a little bit of everything in a lot of different places.

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I began applying for jobs in late March all over the world; from Saudi Arabia to New York to London and Maine, many positions of which I was sure I  stood no chance at even landing an interview. I was turned down a couple of times, rejected a few offers that didn’t feel right, and just plain didn’t hear back about most of my meticulously labored over applications. When the Executive Director of the Boone County Historical Society, which operates four 100+ year old museums, position came up I applied right away. I knew I wanted to get out of the Jersey/NYC area for awhile and Iowa was close to my family.

The big question, however, was will they give a 25 year old that kind of responsibility AND power? I had a phone interview,  was flown in for an in-person interview (an affair which lasted 8 hours), and within days I was offered the job. Perhaps the Board of Directors and I see it differently, but there are a few things distinct things which I think landed me this position at my age.

1. I was sure of myself. I may be young, but I have a lot of experience and knew I had a lot to offer this museum having come from museums in both a better and, more importantly, a worse state.

2. I asked them questions. During my in-person interview I called the Board out. I asked each of them to share why it is they sit on the Board of Directors of the Boone County Historical Society. I received some interesting answers, answers that have helped inform me about working with some of my Board.RedTape

3. I told them that they would have to be ready to accept what it was they were asking me to do. Change. Change the museum, change the operation, change the exhibits, change the community perception, change the branding, and on and on. It was something the Board knew was necessary but before taking the job I needed to make sure I wasn’t going to try and accomplish something they were going to slap a bunch of red tape all over.

I’m not recommending you try this at home. Museum job interviews are not a formula. EVERY. SINGLE. MUSEUM is so incredibly different, no two interviews should be handled the same. If I would have posed that question to another board (let’s say the MET) I may or may not have been laughed off the face of the planet, who knows. I’m not saying my own Board is any lower caliber than the MET’s because they aren’t. They are both a group of people passionate about their respective institutions, whose mission they are entrusted with serving. The MET is just a different type of board with different expectations and history.

I have been in this position for just over a year and I have learned more about museums, people, working with communities, and collaboration than I ever thought was humanly possible. More on my actual experience as a museum director at a later date. Join me next post for my Five Tips (and a bonus) to Landing that First Museum Job.

Oh yeah, and lastly, any emerging, or current, or past, museum professionals that have a question or just want to chat museums, contact me directly. It’s my favorite thing to talk about. I’m a good ear, a strong opinion, and a smiling face.

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Strategizing Museum Internships to Meet (and Manage) Everyone’s Expectations – MAAM

What are the differences between an internship and a volunteer position? What is a good internship? A good intern?  These were just a few of the questions discussed in this panel with Dr. Petra Chu, Seton Hall University, Antonia Moser, Newark Museum, myself Pam Schwartz, student at Seton Hall University, and Pam Veenbaas, Smithsonian Institution.

Presenting four different perspectives from the point of view of an educator, an internship supervisor, a student and an internship coordinator, the panel discussed how to strategize internships in a way that can provide value to both the institution and the intern.

I have been fortunate to have interned at several types and sizes of museums, under many different personalities.  From my perspective, I find the most important things an institution can do are organize, communicate and evaluate.

  1.  When considering advertising for an intern, sit down and brainstorm all of the tasks/projects they can do.  It is better to have more items than to have a bored intern.
  2. Write appropriate postings.  Do not mislead an intern into thinking they will learn something they will not, or that nobody at the institution themselves knows how to do.
  3. Involve us in day-to-day activities.  It is not hard to let an intern sit in on a meeting or seminar and you might be surprised at what we can learn simply by attending.
  4. On the first day be clear about your expectations with the intern.  Your policies on dress, attendance, arriving late, professionalism etc.  You should also make it clear who the intern will report to.
  5. Provide your intern with some form of evaluation part-way through the internship.  This lets you inform the intern of their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to be aware of what they should improve upon.

The most important things an intern can do are communicate, be honest and evaluate.

  1.   When applying or interviewing for an internship, be prepared with questions and interview the museum as much they interview you.  You will be dedicating a large amount of time to the institution and you should be careful that it will be a good fit and you will gain from the internship what you hope to.
  2. If you don’t like your internship part way in, are unhappy or do not feel like you are gaining what you had hoped, then just be honest.  Tell your supervisor. If they don’t know you are unhappy, then it is hard for them to remedy the situation.
  3. Evaluate your internship in the same way your supervisor might evaluate you.  Is it meeting your expectations? Are you engaging in the activities you thought you would?

Pam Veebaas is an internship coordinator for the Smithsonian Institution, who has more than 1200 interns a year.  One important aspect of her job is screening internships applicants to ensure they are being chosen as candidates to learn a certain skill, not being chosen for the skills that they already have. The Smithsonian Institution defines an internship as:

“An internship at the Smithsonian Institution is a prearranged, structured learning experience that takes place within a specific time frame. The experience should be relevant to the stated academic and/or professional goals of the intern and to the disciplines represented at the Institution.”

I feel this is an excellent definition of what an internship should be and how it differs from a volunteer position.

Antonia Moser, registrar at the Newark Museum, discussed the necessity her institution has for interns and all the amazing opportunities they have to offer.  As a mid-sized institution in a difficult economy, interns have much to offer the museum and the museum in return can give the intern qualified experience in their field.

An interesting point Antonia brought up was about the difficulties sometimes had with enforcing professionalism in interns.  Often, the students are not being paid and making certain demands of their time, punctuality and dress may be daunting for supervisors.  However, internships are a study in the real life of a student’s chosen career field and they should be expected to act appropriately.  Again, communication is key: supervisors should be upfront immediately about punctuality and dress or professional expectations for students.  Supervisors should also not forget to lead by example!

Dr. Chu, department head of Museum Professions at Seton Hall University discussed the difference between an internship and a volunteer position.

Most interns are students paying to receive academic credit from their internship. Because of this, students should receive training/education equivalent to a (usually) three credit course at their home institution, which applies to their career field.

There is also the differentiation between an internship and what should be a paid position.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines six criteria for determining between these.

From an academic standpoint, Petra struggles with museums offering “internships” that are not providing students with qualified experience.  An institution should not offer an internship merely to get the work done because they themselves cannot complete it, or  because they themselves do not know how.


MAAM and a Discussion With Myself

Many of you may remember my posts last year at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Conference last year as a fellowship recipient.  This year I had the honor of attending as a session speaker.  MAAM, once again,  has definitely not failed in centering and rejuvenating my passion for all things museum.  After attending several thought-provoking sessions and luncheons I’m left with a million thought and new ideas.

My name is Pam and I WILL change museums.

This is a modified version of a quote from Nina Simon, this year’s Stephen Weill Ketnote Speaker and author of The Participatory Museum.  The modification being that I changed the word “want” to the word “will”.  I will be a museum revolutionary, I just need to find my niche.  What do I have to offer?  What purpose/idea do I want to pursue?  You see… I’m already getting off topic, back to MAAM.

But, my mind is million miles an hour.  This same sort of question is arising as I begin researching thesis topics.  What can I write about that is original, new, interesting and most importantly can make a difference?I love historic house museum, genealogy and inventive sustainability tactics for the survival of museums.  These things all greatly interest me, but what do I want to spend months writing sixty some pages about?

As I mentioned, I was a speaker at this year’s conference in a panel about internships organized by Petra Chu, Department Head at Seton Hall University in Museum Professions, where I’m getting my Masters.  My full post on our session will come later, but in keeping with my point (if I have one), our session made me consider the importance of internships both to the institution and to the intern.

So many people have questions about them and as far as I know there really isn’t a type of “master guide” to having and/or getting museum internships.  How should an institution create an intern program? Advertise one?  Manage interns? How can an intern land an internship? Get the most from one?

I’ve had several internships, all great in some way but also some with things that weren’t so great.  There aren’t too many in-depth resources for museum employees or interns/emerging professionals.  Maybe I should/could do that.  Try to help museums AND students with resources, how-to’s, do’s and don’ts.  I could get started by doing my thesis on hosting effective internship programs and on being an effective intern both for yourself and the museum you’re at.

Is there a need for this? Any sort of interest?MAAM session posts coming soon!


Modern/Contemporary Art and the Curiosity Cabinet

Hirst's "The Golden Calf", image from http://www.studio-international.co.uk

This post published at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Blog on February 13, 2011.

Would you pay 18 million dollars for a calf with gold-dipped hooves and horns submerged in a formaldehyde solution? What prices would you be willing to pay for various rarities and commodities just to say you own them? Damien Hirst’s “The Golden Calf” was just one of the oddities mentioned in by Matthew Palczynsk, Staff Lecturer for Western Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in his recent presentation on “Organizing the Curious Damien Hirst.”

Approximately one-hundred people attended the February 5 symposium organized by Seton Hall’s MA Program in Museum Professions which accompanied the exhibition “Working in Wonder” in the Walsh Gallery. The group exhibition, curated by Erin Gray, Danielle Schallom, and Edward Stapley-Brown included artwork by artists that have been inspired by the Curiosity Cabinet, a historical era of collecting occurring between 1500 and 1700.

After a brief welcome and introduction from Dr. Petra Chu, Director of Museum Studies at Seton Hall, the symposium featured eight speakers, a roundtable discussion with artists included in the show, and a wonderful reception in the Gallery. The Keynote Speaker, Lawrence Weschler, Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, began with “A Natural History of Wonder.”

Weschler describing the Cameroonian Stink Ant. Photograph by Danielle Schallom.

Weschler discussed a variety of bizarre artifacts that may be found at The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, California: fruit stone carvings, Cameroonian Stink Ants and vulgar medical treatments. Shown in a sarcastic way, but truthfully displayed, the rarity of these objects is similar to what might have been found in early cabinets. Museums are said to be the voice of authority, but why do we believe the sometimes absurd things we are shown?

Other speakers included:

Kirsten Hoving, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Art History at Middlebury College, who presented “Thinking Inside the Box: Joseph Cornell’s Cabinets of Cosmic Curiosity.”

Melissa Ragain, a PhD candidate in Art history at the University of Virgina, presented “Wonder as a way of Seeing: Gyorgy Kepes and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies.”

Patricia Allmer, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Jonathan Carson and Rosie Miller, artist collaborators, University of Salford, presented “Playing in the Wunderkammer.” The speakers discussed their 2009 exhibition, The Story of Things which was shown at The Manchester Metropolitan University. The artists used artifacts from the collections not as objects but as pieces of art within larger works. The narrative in which they were placed created a type of fiction, playing a game of making up relationships between objects without a linear relationship.

Photograph by Danielle Schallom.

Joanna Ebenstein, cabinetist at the Morbid Anatomy Library, presented “To Every Man his Cabinet or The Morbid Anatomy Library and Cabinet and the Revival of Cabinets of Curiosity.”

The Symposium concluded with a Roundtable led by Jeanne Brasile, Director of Seton Hall University’s Walsh Gallery. Brasile led a discussion with artists Paul Baumann, Tracy Heneberger and Susan Napack, three of the artists featured in the Gallery’s exhibition. Topics included the artists’ choices of materials and an inquiry as to whether each artist felt they were as eccentric and the curiosities they both create and mimic.

Is the curious form of collecting making a comeback?


Museum Expansion in the Global 21st Century: The Case of Abu Dhabi

Students and faculty conversing with Andrew McClellan before the program.

This post published on the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Blog on November 23, 2010.

November 18, Seton Hall University welcomed Andrew McClellan, Dean of Academic Affairs for Arts & Sciences and Professor of Art History at Tufts University, for his program Museum Expansion in the Global 21st Century: The Case of Abu Dhabi.

This incredible program included information about the unfolding developments in the cultural and tourism sectors in the United Arab Emirates. Recent revenues from the oil and gas industry have spurred economic booms in places like Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These areas are utilizing this opportunity to build their cultural sector in order to create sustainable tourism and financial stability for the future.

McClellan briefly described the current impacts of growing tourism and cultural enhancement in Qatar and Dubai but the majority of the program was spent explaining the Saadiyat Island Cultural District that is being built in Abu Dhabi. The island will be home to four large museums and a performing arts center whose architecture, designed by five different Pritzker Prize winners, will be as stunning as the institutions themselves. The District aims to, “fuel the imagination, foster interaction, and encourage people of all backgrounds to embrace a common bond of creativity.” (Saadiyat Cultural District Website)

 

Projected view of the Saadiyat Culture District (photo from Saadiyat Culture District website).

Though some of the institutions aim to open their doors by 2013, the overall one hundred billion dollar cultural complex will not be completed until 2018. The following are the cultural institutions planned for the Island:

Sheikh Zayed National Museum, designed by Lord Norman Foster + Partners, will provide a testament to the life and times of Sheikh Zayed and his inspired vision. This museum with house both permanent and temporary exhibitions based in five categories: Environment, History, Education, Unity and Humanitarianism. A temporary exhibition at the Emirates Palace will open as an extension of the existing exhibition and will explore the concept and vision for the new museum.

Maritime Museum, designed by Tadao Ando, will shed light on the U.A.E’s relationship with the sea and their maritime activities. This stunning bit of architecture will actually allow for boats to pass through under the museum.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, will be a 24,000 square meter museum which will include 6,000 square meters devoted to permanent collections and 2,000 square meters for temporary exhibitions. This partnership with The Musee du Louvre and Agence France-Museums will seek to present paintings, drawings, sculptures, manuscripts, archaeological findings, and decorative arts collected from all over the world.

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, “…will be committed to representing the international nature of Modern and contemporary art, presenting key aspects of the Western historical canon while simultaneously highlighting the richness and diversity of Asian, African, South American, and Middle Eastern art during this period.” (Saadiyat Cultural District Website)

Performing Arts Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid, will host cutting-edge theatre, music and dance from around the world. The Centre will also house an Academy of Fine Arts.

Aerial Shot of the Culture District (photo from Saadiyat Cultural District website).

McClellan raised a number of interesting points/issues/thoughts about this large cultural complex and the potential impact it may have on the future of museums.

Many museums are merging with their cities’ identity. As the Louvre is synonymous with Paris, so will these museums be with Abu Dhabi. Can and/or will other museums start to strive for this recognition in their own cities?

The museums are located directly on a large body of salt water which will be in actually be in contact with some of the institutions. What effect will this have on the architecture and what conservation issues will it raise?

Who will visit Saadiyat? With such a large cultural complex going up at once how expensive will visiting be, and will it be a location people wish to go more than once? Will they be able to persuade 150,000 people to move to the island where condos and housing are being built?

New York University will have a campus of Arts and Science on the island. Will they be able to attract enough students, or will the program fail as did the program Michigan State attempted to start in Dubai?

Is there a plan for the museums to stand on their own? Most of the museums are currently partnering with other institutions for both curatorial assistance as well as collection loans. Will the museums have compiled enough collections to stand on their own when the current agreements run out?

A large issue discussed was the criticism of western museums “selling their names”. Will this hurt the respected image of The Louvre and The Guggenheim? 4,000 professionals in France petitioned against the Louvre partnering in Abu Dhabi, stating that France was selling its culture and heritage. McClellan stated the bottom line is that money is scarce and many institutions are struggling to survive. Also, we should guard against condescension of what’s happening in Abu Dhabi. There is an entertainment/tourism factor being tacked to Saadiyat, but that does not mean the institutions will have any less integrity

Visit the Saadiyat Island Cultural District website for more information and photographs.


Crunch Time

So, I blog all about my conference and launch my new website only to leave it for a couple of weeks.  It’s hitting crunch time of the semester and things are beginning to become urgent.  I still have a couple of blog posts backed up to work on, I promise I’ll get them out soon. The MAAM Conference about did me in, I’ll have to start a notebook of topics for a rainy day.  I have two big projects to finish up this month and lucky for me I’m enjoying both of them.

1. For History and Theory of Museum – 15-20 page paper on the history of an institution/museum/collection.  I’m researching the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton.  What an amazing place with such  rich history.  Built as a Barracks in 1758 it has served as barracks, housing for indigent women, a house of ill-repute, a school, a hospital, a site for small pox inoculation and more recently a museum.  Preserved as a museum by a group of patriotic women around 1902, this incredible piece of architectural history served as a nearby site to some of America’s most famous moments.  I spent five hours in their archives the other day and wished I could have spent the night!

 

Old Barracks Museum, picture from http://www.barracks.org

How often do people really think of the history of a museum itself? Usually we are thinking about the history of the objects within the museum and in the case of the Barracks  the former is perhaps the more interesting of the stories.

2. For Exhibitions A to Z – Create a theoretical exhibition from beginning to finish, as finished as it can be on paper anyways.  This has been a fun project for me, “Simple Joys: Little Things That Make Us Smile” is being kept in the dark until either finished or I find a space that ACTUALLY wants to let me do the exhibition.   That’s my hope.

The other big thing on my agenda now is finding an internship/job for next semester and summer.  I’m hoping to come up with something amazing.  I’m over having a job just to pay the bills, time to get back to the point at hand.

Coming up in my agenda!

LECTURE

A Matter of Class: John Cotton Dana, Progressive Reform and the Newark Museum

Speaker: Carol Duncan,  Professor Emerita, Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Location: Thursday, November 18, 4 pm at the Newark Museum, Newark, NJ

LECTURE

Museum Expansion in the Global 21st Century: The Case of Abu Dhabi

Speaker: Andrew McClellan (he wrote the book we use for History & Theory of Museums class!)

Location: Thursday, November 18, 7 pm
Nursing Amphitheater (room NU113), Caroline D. Schwartz College of Nursing Building, Seton Hall University


A Fellow’s reflection on the 2010 Conference

Pam Schwartz holding an original signed (by Abraham Lincoln) Emancipation Proclamation during the MAAM Conference Opening Reception.

This post originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Blog on October 31, 2010.

When I applied for the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Bruce Craig Fellowship, I had just begun planning my move from Iowa to New Jersey to attend graduate school at Seton Hall University. I knew that it could be a good networking occasion, a chance to meet a few other professionals in the area, and familiarize myself with some of the museums. I never guessed that the four days of the conference would be one of the most enriching experiences of my career thus far.

The opportunities made available to working professionals and students alike were many and worthwhile. I attended seminars over a broad spectrum of topics from online museum models to sustaining historic homes. I made acquaintances with colleagues from all over the world and came face to face with the spooks during our tour at the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Throughout the conference I was continually impressed by the amount of passion I saw in individuals for all things museum. Though we as museum professionals often converse about the dismal outlook of our field, I believe that, with so many passionate advocates, museums will sustain as appreciated and irreplaceable centers of edification for generations to come.

My favorite aspect of the conference was the Leadership Luncheon on Monday. Great conversation developed between mixed tables of seasoned and emerging professionals who all came ready to the table with questions and tips for one another. From this experience I gained valuable knowledge about the expectations of employers in my field as well as getting pointers for my cover letter and resume.

Thank you to all members of MAAM and the supporters of the Bruce Craig Fellowships. Your contributions help several emerging professionals each year to offset the costs of attending the conference and in giving them the opportunity to grow both as a professional and as a person. My experience at the 2010 Conference has been an amazing opportunity and I am already looking forward to attending next year.