Picture it! You’ve just graduated from Kent State University with your shiny new M.L.I.S. degree. You are determined to get the museum job of your dreams and begin searching the job boards. You find multiple postings and you think to yourself, “Wow, these sound fantastic! I would love to do any of these jobs!” You continue to scroll through the posting and reach the qualifications section. Your smile begins to fade...all of these “entry level” positions require at least 2-3 years of experience! Doesn’t entry level mean no experience required? Well...I hate to break it you, but NO! Entry-level does not mean no experience. According to our old friend, Merriam-Webster (2017), entry-level is defined as “of or being at the lowest level of a hierarchy”. Just because a job is listed as entry-level doesn’t mean you don’t have to put in hands-on work first. Now before you get discouraged, I am here to tell you that it is MUCH easier to get museum experience than you’re thinking. I know, because I am proof that it is possible.
A little less than a year ago -- and five months after I graduated with my M.L.I.S. -- I attained my first professional job as a Curatorial Assistant at the museum I always dreamed of working for: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of the main reasons I landed this job was due to my two and a half years of experience at the MuseLab. While working at the MuseLab I helped fabricate and curate seven different exhibits, catalogued over a hundred different artifacts, led exhibit tours, co-authored and presented an article related to an exhibit I curated, and created a collections related skill-clinic (one-day workshop) in collaboration with ICA Art Conservation.
At the MuseLab you have the opportunity to become a jack of all trades. It is the perfect place to get hands on experience as the MuseLab is an experimental laboratory space that welcomes innovative and creative ideas. You are told from the beginning that it is ok to fail, which is a freedom that most museums do not offer. The Muselab is not a place where volunteers are assigned grunt work. You are given the opportunity to explore your interests, whether it be in exhibit design, collections or fabrication.
When I asked my boss, Karen Hermen, Vice President of Collections & Curatorial Affairs at the RRHoF, what made my resume stand out, she explained, “A major factor that made you such a strong candidate was the experience you gained at the MuseLab. Your training in almost all facets of exhibition — from conception, through artifact handling and even cutting vinyl letters — gave you an edge. During your interview, not only was it apparent that your work with MuseLab instilled a visitor-focused curatorial eye, but your hands-on educational experience could easily translate to a fast-paced large museum setting.”
When I first started my journey as a museum studies student my dream was to work at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and that dream was made possible by the MuseLab. If you are a SLIS museum studies student living in Northeast Ohio I highly encourage you to take advantage of the space and volunteer your time. If you want to land your dream museum job you have to start building your resume early, and I say there is no better time to start than now!
You can email Dr. Latham, the director, if you are interested, firstname.lastname@example.org.