Introducing Ilana Short who graduate from Johns Hopkins University in December 2015. She currently works as the Museum Attendant and Photography Curator at a history museum. Thank you to her for answering these questions about her graduate experience.
Why did you choose Johns Hopkins University?
There were a few reasons. First, I had been out of college for fifteen years, and this program did not require that I go take the GRE for admission. Second, I appreciated that it was 90% online, and that enabled me to continue working and raising my family easily. Finally, the cost for the graduate program was reasonable, and around $35,000 total. I did not apply for financial aid, and I was able to pay the tuition.
What was your favorite class and/or professor and why?
I think my favorite class was Collections Management. I had always been in visitor services and education so I learned a lot about how museums function internally and what best practices for collections were.
Have you been able to put any of the skills you learned in the Collections Management course into practice?
Yes, I have moved from visitor services and education over to collections management. As the photography curator, I am responsible for processing and cataloging our photography collections (we have over one million photographic objects), as well as safely storing the collections so that they will be accessible for future generations. Before taking Collections Management, I thought I was happy in education, but I had an aptitude for collections, and now I am happy that I made the switch. I still work with researchers, docents, interns, and volunteers – so I haven’t left education entirely – but I am happy to have broadened my skill set, and I feel much more fulfilled professionally.
What particular skills were taught in the program?
The program emphasizes a wide range of skills including collections management, community engagement, education, and exhibit design.
Did you complete a thesis or capstone project? If so, what was your topic?
No. However, the program requires a two week offsite seminar. The seminar session I attended included an intensive group project as well as exhibition design. In many ways it was similar to a capstone project.
Where were you and your classmates in your career? Just out of undergrad, or coming from an entry-level museum position, or coming from outside of the field, etc.?
It seemed to be a balanced mix of all of these categories. For me personally, I was 36 and had been working in museums for quite some time.
Related, who would you recommend your program for?
I think it is idea for those looking to balance work, family, and a graduate school program.
Was housing provided for grad students or did you find your own housing and was it a challenge?
This program is exclusively online, and we had students from around the world.
Any other insider information you would like to provide about your program or university?
I would recommend researching what online programs are like before applying and enrolling. Since you aren’t attending classes in person, it takes a lot of self discipline to make sure readings, assignments, and projects are completed on time.
Any advice for those looking into graduate school and beginning a career in museums?
The field is becoming more and more competitive, and no one ever became rich working for a museum. Just be sure that this is the field for you, and that you understand that there will be a lot of people competing for entry level positions.