Kate graduated with an M.A. in History and a concentration in Museum Studies in 2013. Currently, she works as a Collection Specialist for a history museum. Thank you, Kate, for providing this look into your graduate school experience!
Why did you choose the University of Missouri-St. Louis?
I choose UMSL for a few reasons, but the most important reason to me was that they placed me into an assistantship with a museum partner in the community. I was given the opportunity to work with one-on-one with a curator that has since become a professional role model at the Missouri History Museum on meaningful exhibit work. It gave me years of experience and helped me make connections in the museum world that are still beneficial to me today – all with the added benefit and helping me pay for school. It really was the best option for me.
What was your favorite class and/or professor and why?
My favorite class was on museum curatorship taught by the Director of the Mercantile Library (the oldest library west of the Mississippi!). In the class, we gained hands-on experience in artifact handling, exhibit design, public programs execution, and student engagement. Mr. Hoover, the professor, still makes me smile to this day. He is one of those people that you find yourself still thinking about on an almost weekly basis and remembering something he taught you, either about museums or about life. The best teachers teach life.
What particular skills were taught in the program?
Exhibit design, public programming, museum evaluation, critical thinking.
Did you complete a thesis or capstone project? If so, what was your topic?
I completed a capstone project – I made an interactive map for the exhibit I was working on with the Missouri History Museum – a map that tracked the flow the American Revolution westward through artifacts placed in their area of significance through time. You could watch the action move westward through the years and track patterns of movement and events through artifact “pins” on a map.
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.?
We actually came from all walks of life. I was coming from an entry level position, there were some that came just out of undergrad, a couple that were from completely different fields, and 2 international students.
Related, who would you recommend your program for? Any particular focus or for those interested in theory vs. application?
I feel that my education was a good mix of theory and application—it was fairly balanced I’d say. It definitely prepared me for real museum work on many different aspects. I can write programs, I can critically evaluate content and theory, I can gather, interpret and present museum evaluation data, I can interact with kids and adults on a mixed level. It was a varied education and I’d definitely recommend it for most serious museum applicants.
Many of the skills you list seem to be geared toward visitor services and exhibition based. Is this your personal passion or is this a general focus by the program?
I think my interview was skewed because that’s what I’m really into. The program was pretty well rounded–my particular assistantship was centered around exhibitions and visitors experience because that what I went into the program wanting to do and they did their best to put me in a position to do that.
Was housing provided for grad students or did you find your own housing and was it a challenge?
I found my own housing and I think there were grad apartments on campus. Housing wasn’t that big of a challenge, but my family was close, I was working 2 jobs (more $ to pay expenses) and I did take out a couple student loans to make ends meet.
Did you or any of your peers work while pursuing their degree?
Every one of us worked, some of us worked multiple jobs.
Any advice for those looking into graduate school and beginning a career in museums?
You’re not going to get rich working in museums, but it will provide you with the most meaningful career anyone could ask for.