From the Field: Advice from a Collections Manager
My name is Chrissy Marquardt and I am the Collections Manager at the Akron Art Museum and Alumna of Kent State University’s Library and Information Science program. I was one of the first students through the museum specialization, when it began in Spring 2011. The MuseLab was under construction during my time at KSU. Although this opportunity wasn’t available to me at the time, I was lucky enough to take two in-person courses with Dr. Latham, who developed the museum studies specialization and co-founded the MuseLab. This face-to-face time was invaluable to my career. In these courses, we did hands-on projects and had real life discussions, but most importantly I made a connection with Dr. Latham and with the other students that I would have missed out on in an online environment.
Through these in-person courses a few opportunities presented themselves to me, that I am positive would not have occurred otherwise:
An in-person tour of the Kent State University Museum that led to meeting the registrar and getting a student position at the museum for 2 years. This position was the grounding force in my career path and really helped me realize I wanted to be a registrar.
Connecting with a fellow student who became a colleague of mine in Columbus and connected me to countless other professionals in a city where I knew no one. This group of professionals became a major part of my network that I rely on regularly to this day.
Studying abroad in Italy with Dr. Latham, which allowed for even more networking. I maintain professional connections to this day from that experience.
At the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy as part of the Museum Origins course.
Talk about hands-on experiences!
My ability to really get to know Dr. Latham allowed her to become more of a mentor to me than just an instructor. After a course with her, I asked her to be my advisor and went to office hours regularly where she helped me as I started searching for career opportunities. Throughout my career I have called on Dr. Latham for advice, which often helped me find direction in my career goals.
I have been lucky enough to be working my ideal career for the last 6 years. I graduated in 2012 and, indeed, it was an uphill battle to break into the field. After about year of looking for a full-time position as a registrar, countless internships, hundreds of applications, a handful of interviews and, a few part-time jobs…. five in one year to be exact, I was offered a position at the Columbus Museum of Art as Assistant Registrar.
Admiring a recently-installed chain hoist at the Akron Art Museum.
My resume stood out to Columbus because of my network. I had completed my practicum with the Collections Manager at the Akron Art Museum who happened to be a friend of the person making hiring decisions at Columbus. I was later recruited for the Collections Manager position at the Akron Art Museum when my mentor left after 26 years. The field is small and networking is such a crucial element to getting your foot in the door. Connecting to people in real life is a vital experience to your education; this is how you start developing your network. You need to associate with people in the field in real life and make lasting connections.
Preparing to move a sculpture.
So in a wholly online learning experience I encourage you to take advantage of every possible in-person and hands on experience you can get. You have to be proactive and seek out every possible experience available to you. If the MuseLab were operating while I was a student, I would have taken full advantage of that experience without question. The MuseLab is the closest experience you are going to get to working in a museum without actually working in a museum. You will have hands on experience putting together exhibitions in a very similar manner that you would in a museum. This experience is real and is valuable to your career. Just one example, I worked with a preparator at the Columbus Museum of Art who learned how to cut and apply vinyl at the MuseLab while completing her degree at KSU. What was one of the tasks she did for us? Cut and install vinyl. A directly transferable skill, which might seem minor, but not everyone knows how to do this. In the museum field hands-on skills are an irreplaceable advantage that will aid in finding a position in a museum. Actually, hands-on experience is absolutely critical to finding a museum job. Connect to a network and broaden it at every opportunity you get and opportunities will present themselves. Starting in the MuseLab would be a great way to start building your network and skillset.