Monday, April 26, 2010

Personal Reflections on My Job

I was thinking the other day about my job. My job is great. I've grown so much here. When I began this position, I was fresh faced, out of grad school, had never held a full time job in my life (because, you know, I'd been in school for all of it). I had never been in charge of the work of others and had never had real responsibility. So I was thrilled when I was offered the position.

And then tragedy struck. A deep personal tragedy - the kind that rips the fabric of your reality apart, slaps you in the face and then sews that fabric back up with gaping holes and mis-matched edges. I pushed my starting date back two weeks, dealt with what I could, and managed much of the rest those first months on the job. I did a lot of growing up and I did it so fast. So much faster than I would have liked. So the person I have become today, through facing that tragedy, from taking on the challenge of this job, from growing in a multitude of ways over the past few years is a very different person than I think I was when I started this blog in the throes of a Masters thesis.

But I meant to talk about my job. I'm a collections manager. More specifically, I'm a Preservation and Museum Specialist II, which technically mean that I'm assistant to a curator and need to have all my decisions checked. But that is more an issue for Museos Unite than here.

During my time so far I have contributed substantially to the establishment of a new museum with an existing collection. I have moved a museum collection. I have reconciled records, I have digitized records, I have photographed the collection, I have rehoused it, and I have been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. And all this was only possible because I learned how to place myself in a position of authority, while guiding and teaching interns and volunteers how to work with collections. And I am learning how to maneuver my way through the many offices and various signatories of our parent institution.

I've had the opportunity to attend and present at two major conferences, with a third presentation coming up this May at AAM. The first two were great, and probably happened as a direct result of my having this blog and sticking my head up at a time when museums were just beginning to dip their toes in the water. When it started, this blog was relevant - to what was happening, to my thesis. Now, not so much. And that's why I'm really thrilled that my AAM presentation will be on the collections move that I did in my professional capacity.

But more than doing the job I set out to do, I have had the opportunity to learn so much more. I have developed a small exhibit and been a major part of tempering the academic-speak of another. I have learned how to work with vinyl, and plexiglass. I am deeply involved in the exhibit design process. I have arranged the objects within their cases for our latest exhibit. I make mounts. I maintain our online presence (although I admit that part is not so great). I attend to the front desk when we have no volunteers to do it for us.

And, you know what?, I love learning all of these new things. The exhibit stuff is great. I love making things happen, and I adore having conversations with visitors who are so into the topic that they can't stop talking about it. I love doing silly little projects. And I love the chance to grow.

But I'm worried. I'm deeply worried. Our parent institution is going through a severe budget crunch and an ax is going to fall somewhere. And, even though we've done really amazing things with surprisingly limited support, even though we've made great strides connecting to the community in a town where the town/gown curtain sometimes feels like it's made of iron, I'm very worried.

So I've been thinking about my job. It's been such an excellent opportunity for me, and I have grown so much, and accomplished many things. I mean, I've been at the beginning of a museum which has so much potential to be a catalyst in the area, and that's a rare opportunity. And it feels good to think that the little things I do every day, even the dull things (photo editing, I'm looking at you), have helped to make something good.

This feels like a farewell letter. I don't know if that's what it is. An ax is going to fall here soon, and I've been open with my supervisors that I would dearly like to find a job closer to my family - 2000 miles is tough. It is what it is. But I'm proud of what I've been a part of so far and feel ready for whatever my next step is going to be.

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