No one can deny that real world experience is a great addition to one’s education and resume. As graduate students at Kent State University, we are often immersed in the theoretical side of museum studies, while at the same time, consistently encouraged to gain that valuable real world experience. While volunteering at a museum is great, I highly recommend volunteering at least one semester on campus at the MuseLab. Museums can help with networking and hopefully lead to a job after graduation, but when you are a volunteer, you are usually stuck doing one specific set of tasks in a museum. At the MuseLab, you will work on every aspect of museums; script writing, exhibit planning, exhibit building, front line, advertising, and more.
The biggest thing that I took away from my semester at the MuseLab is that regardless of how much time you spend in the classroom, you will never learn as much as you do in the real world. In addition to getting that hands on experience, I also gained a better sense of what area of museum work suits me. From the classroom experience, I thought I wanted to go into collection management. However, after spending a semester at the MuseLab, I began to enjoy tasks that, frankly, sounded awful on paper in the classroom. For instance, I found myself really enjoying conducting research and writing the exhibit script. Whenever we discussed how this part of exhibit-making in the classroom, I thought people were crazy to want to be in charge of the script. However, after becoming the “script keeper” for the Mona Lisa X 4 exhibition, I found myself enjoying organizing every little detail about the exhibit, and maintaining that information into a nice centralized document for everyone to easily access. Now I can see myself doing the script-writing aspect of exhibition work. Who knew?
My advice to fellow students: The classroom can only teach you certain kinds of things. It is important that during your time as a student you branch out and try to gain as much hands-on experience as possible, especially when it comes to museum work. What sounds good to you in the classroom may not suit you in the real world, and vice versa. I encourage you all to volunteer at the MuseLab at least for one semester (or do your CE project there) and experience creating an exhibit from start to finish. You will feel extremely accomplished at the end and learn more about museums than you ever thought possible.
A bit about our guest blogger:
Sara Leighton resides in Akron, Ohio with her Fiancé, Lee. She recently graduated from Kent State University with her Master’s in Library and Information Science. She currently works at the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library as a Reference Associate and assistant to the Adult Outreach Librarian. She graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Popular Culture. She hopes to one day work in a popular culture library or museum.