1. The Career Exploration Essay is now due Friday, December 14 by 5pm in Dropbox. Please make sure you review the rubric to understand the expectations for this assignment.
2. You must attach a copy or transcription of your thank you note or email as an appendix to your career exploration essay. *This is a critical step in any professional networking!*
3. The deadline for completing all 15 writing assignments and 3 comments is now Friday, December 14 by 5pm. Please don’t take a zero for any of these assignments.
I have chosen to explore the career of Processing Archivist Jordan Patty. It’s a career option that is not discussed very often so it would be nice to learn something about it. Archivists seem like they have an interesting career and it seemed like it would be fun to find out more about that line of work.
American Memory is a website run by the Library of Congress. Working as a digital Archival Website it seeks to preserve all manners of the past in an easily accessible and searchable format. Digitizing older media as well as providing access to new documents the American Memory website is well organized. Like Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web reports, I found the website to be both informative and had little issue moving through American Memory. At times the website may seem a little lackluster but I feel that it simply adds to the feeling that the website is a digital museum, it doesn’t have all the bells & whistles found on many corporate websites, but at the same time it doesn’t need them. Where American Memory succeeds is in providing access to the digital media it is archiving for future generations and in making it such that the archives can be readily accessed by anyone.
For the reading from Public History: Essays from the Field, I chose to read the essay titled “Interpreters and Museum Educators: Beyond the Blue Hairs” by Mark Howell. Reading through the essay it caught my interest that many Museum Educators are struggling to be recognized not only in their field but that the field itself is struggling to be recognized as its own separate profession. The key thing stressed throughout the essay is the struggle not only for recognition but also credibility. Museum Educators, like many teaching professionals, work to ensure that not only is history presented in a fashion that keeps bias to a minimum but that it incorporates in many conflicting and often constantly evolving interpretations of the past. Museum Educators have to contend with interpretations that are not only accurate but also strive to present how to interpret the past involved with the particular exhibit.
Overall I feel this essay dovetails nicely into the career path I am considering in public education. While the Museum Educators certainly face differing conditions and requirements I feel that the obstacles they need to overcome are similar. While my intention to seek a career in public education has not lessened by reading this essay, I must say that my interest in a career in Museum Education has certainly increased.
When I was looking through Public History: Essays In the Field by Gardner and Paglia I looked at the chapter, or essay, entitled “At Historic Sites and Outdoor Museums: A High Performance Act” by William S. Pretzer. I thought this was a really interesting essay as he describes the role of Public Historians who work at an outdoor museum and historic site and how one with that type of position is constantly performing a balancing act between the following roles which their job encompasses: Historian as Politician, as Diplomat, as Performing Artist, as Teacher, and as Knowledge worker. I think that this is a really great way of describing what public historians in this field do and can be used to formulate questions one can ask oneself to evaluate one’s own skills and interests to see if this type of work would be the right type of job to go into. In hearing what they do I thought it sounded fascinating and really exciting and I think it is something I will consider looking into after I graduate.
Public History: Essays from the Field.
After reading through this book, it is really hard for me to narrow down what it is I would like to do because there are so many options. The chapter that stood out most to me when I looked through the title page was the chapter archivists and record managers. I definitely enjoyed that one, and it seemed like something I could see myself doing in the future.
Although, I also took a look at some of the chapters involving preservation because I think that would also be something that I would be interested in.
The career which I learned about was being a public historian for a historical site /outdoor museum. I particularly learned about the managerial side of this type of career and how being the manager or overseer of a large project or outdoor museum means that one often me wears a lot of different hats, meaning fills many different roles. I conducted an interview with the Superintendent of the Abingdon Muster grounds in Abingdon, VA. (They are currently working on developing a website for this project yet in the meantime they have a facebook page. She is currently the only full time staff member so not her position involves her in almost every aspect of what goes on at this site. As the superintendent she oversees the project and acts a liaison between the Abingdon Muster Grounds and the National parks service for the this is a town own park site but National Parks Certified. She works with many different people and coordinates all the volunteers, many of whom are from the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, though some are just community member who would like to be involved. Her role also puts her in contact with the public who comes to visit the site. As superintendent she also has a say in the development of the programs which are put on at the muster grounds. She also works with the county to involve all the local schools to participate in their main program in the fall which is called “A Call to Arms.” What surprised me is that her role even entails performing seemingly simple task such as setting up tents for events and other such odd jobs.
In class today I don’t actually mind what we do. All of the suggestions my other classmates have made are great ones and I, personally, don’t have any more ideas to add.
For my interview, I interviewed a monographic specialist at UVA’s Alderman Library, Deborah Bruce. Prior to doing the interview, I had little to know idea of what a monograph was, let alone that you could specialize in it. A monograph comes from the Latin word meaning “writing on a single subject” and is a long form collection of original research. Ms. Bruce’s job is to help professors and students in organizing materials as well as the university press in publishing these, essentially, books.
Ms. Bruce graduated from Northeastern Univeristy with a Masters in English with a graduate certificate in Library Sciences which she supposes gave her the needed experience to do her job of editing, proofing, and research as well as managing aquisitions; however, school did not prepare her for the amount of administrative work she would have to do. Despite her playful detestation of tedious “busy work,” it is plain to see that she is absolutely in love with her job. She loves the intellectual challenge of having to deal with subjects ranging from contemporary poetry to 19th century Russian history to examination of politics. She also enjoys the opportunity to meet people passionate about their academic pursuits and learning from the work that they produce. Also, she has a great love of reading and being so close to such an impressive library has a lot of benefits, most notably, “being able to check out a first edition of T.S. Elliot’s poetry.” Out of all the things I had learned from this interview, the most surprising bit of information that I learned is that they have an original edition of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and a strong collection of Soviet Literature. As a fan of pretty much all Russian Literature, this was too exciting for words as Ms. Bruce was kind enough to show me and geek out about it with me.
For our last class I think it would nice to talk about which history projects of all the ones we have studied or read about in class this semester were are favorites and why.
Also discussing what job interviews in the public history field would be like might be a good idea as well as discussing ways one can get involved in public history projects in the area.
I believe that it is hard to give a definition of public history because each person can view it in a different manner. Public History to one scholar may be different from another scholar and then the definition of public history to someone who does not study history will be completely different from the scholar’s definition. The definition of public history to your everyday person may not even exist because they may not even know or understand what public history is. So in that manner it is difficult to label what public history is.
As for my personal understanding of public history, I believe that public history is the way that history is presented to the American public and the manners in which our nation’s history is conveyed to the everyday person. Whether it is through memorials, museums, archives, or films, they all give a different learning experience and interpretation to someone who may not quite understand the past. It is very important to understand the past because without the past, the United States’ would not be the country that it is today. I believe that public history is also about the different manners in which we can understand our history, whether it is hands-on history, visual, audio, and re-enactments. Each of those method stimulate our senses and allow for a better interpretation of the history. It is important to create the public history in a manner in which it is interesting to the audience.
Since August, my view on public history has evolved from just thinking that museums were the only form of public history. I never knew that so many public history sites surrounded us in our everyday life. There is so much that goes into this field and through the projects that we have done in class, my vision of public history has evolved in such a way that I can see what the big idea of what public history projects are trying to get the American public to understand.
The definition of public history is still evolving and it will be hard to give a direct definition on what exactly public history is. My personal definition will continue to evolve as I study history and visit different sites that are considered public history.
The career that I focused on in my in informational interview was the field of museum curating. I interviewed my professor Spencer Crew who has an impressive background on curating museums. He has worked in one of the most popular Smithsonian’s that is located in the D.C. area. The National Museum of American History is where he worked for over 20 years in this job field of museum work. He did many different tasks in this museum and it shows the diversity of the field of curating and the many different jobs that one has to take on when creating an exhibit for the public.
Through the interview, I learned many different facts and important qualities that one has to have to be in the field. I think that it is interesting how one can get personal with the exhibit. Crew curated the exhibit “Field to Factory” that was located in the NMAH from 1987 to 2006. He explained to me that he was able to add personal touches to the museum such as the mannequins that were modeled after his daughter and wife. It was interesting to hear that he had personal connections to the exhibit.
As explained in the interview, there are two ways to get into the field of curating/museum work and that is either working from the bottom to the top in the museum or just plain luck. Sometimes it seems like one just needs to be in the rights place or time in order to break into the career of a curator. There is also that tactic of working your way to the top to be able to earn your position as a curator.
It is important to understand when going into the field of curating that you need to go into the career path with an open mind and understand that you may not start in such a big museum as the NMAH or a Smithsonian. Sometimes that can happen to someone who has the right credentials but be open to possibility of a smaller museum.
I learned a lot about this career and I learned that this job can be related to small museums to even the biggest museums in the world. It is just important to understand the amount of work and time that goes into creating the exhibits.
It would be nice to discuss the interviews that we conducted for the last paper. It would shed some personal light on people who work in the fields that we have been learning about all semester. It would provide a nice wrap-up of the focus of the entire course.
For our last class I would like to just go over the main things that we should carry away from this class. It would be nice to go over the main themes of the class as well.
The career that I explored was the career of an archivist here at George Mason. Archivists are people who work to keep and build up archives with important information that can be used later. They help preserve special documents so that they can be used in the future and read in the future. Their job is to look through things that might be donated to see what will or could be actually useful for their university or other type of institution. The job seemed like it could be very interesting at times and very dull at other times. The thought of spending day after day going through different papers could make going through those papers very boring. The job does not bring them into contact with the public very often. They do work to make different things available online for public use. They often work in an office cataloging the things that will be kept and throwing away things that cannot be kept. Sometimes they do travel outside of their office to go look at artifacts that may be important to their places of work. The work hard to preserve the different types of artifacts that are kept within their vaults. People who work in this job are usually found in libraries. They can also be found at museums, records departments and any other place where important records could be kept or any place where important artifacts can be view and saved. Historical sites are places where people can find archivists. Their work in those types of places allows them to be near historical artifacts that may be being found right on the property where they work. The only thing that surprised me was that they did actually have to throw some things that they get away, but it is because they need that space for something that may have been more important.