This is the first of three publications coming out this year! My brain is very tired.
Yesterday marked 5 whole years of being a museum educator! I was often miserable at my big art museum visitor services job, but I am constantly grateful for what that misery brought me: strong friendships, the realization that museum education was a career path, and an intimate knowledge of a collection that spurred one of my favorite professional projects. My first museum educator job was at the Museum of Chinese in America, and I remember being in that interview giving a fake tour of the galleries feeling like the biggest phony. That feeling continued for a long time – the team at MOCA constantly pushed me to try new things and coached me through projects I didn’t feel like I was ready for. I owe them so much!
With each new educator position I noticed how much I had grown at the last, became more confident, and over time was able to articulate my approach to teaching. When I moved to Seattle two years later and was interviewing I meant it when I said I wanted a job where I could really focus on teaching and work on my craft. I’m someone who feels most inspired to do good work when led by someone more talented and knowledgeable than myself, who I want to emulate, learn from, and impress. Though I was really proud of my curriculum work so far, I believed that even if I was able to secure coordinator-level work or wanted to be a manager one day I wouldn’t do well unless I really felt like an expert educator. But what does that even mean? Starting at MOHAI turned out to be just as filled with impostor syndrome and projects I felt unprepared for as MOCA was. Welcome! You have no manager. Surprise! The person training you is leaving in two weeks and you will have her job. Surprise! That means hiring and supervising interns. Surprise! Train your new co-worker. Surprise! You are now in charge of this teen advisory board. Surprise! The coordinator is now manager, please take on her responsibilities. Surprise! Your co-worker is going on maternity leave, please take on all her projects. And so on, until two years later I woke up with a new title, new responsibilities, and the oldest member of a team though I’d only clocked two years. Rarely did I feel ready for any of it.
Nowadays I find myself giving advice to interns, in exhibit planning meetings, and writing articles & book chapters like I know what I’m doing, and it freaks me out. I doubt I’m ever going to feel “done.” The more I grow as an educator the more I identify skills and knowledge I’d like to strengthen. Teaching can easily become a lifelong practice, and I’m so grateful to be in a position where I get to teach and develop programs. I wish it wasn’t so common in museum education for teaching to be something you gradually work your way out of the higher you move up the ranks. I believe deeply that the fact that I still teach on the floor every other day is what keeps my program development and supervisory skills moving forward regardless of whatever else is going on. All this is to say that although I still feel like goop with a lot to learn, when I look back at my first educator orientation and at my first tour it feels fifty light years away. I can’t believe what these first five years have taught me! Cheers to five more.
And it was very pretty
Wow. Its really been a minute since I last posted. In the spirit of new year reflections, I thought I’d give a quick update on things I’ve been up to creatively/professionally since May. When I look back at the past six months I think the biggest thing I’m proud of are the various internal hurdles, blocks, and hang-ups I managed to push through. These are the projects that really illustrate that for me.
I wrote a book chapter! I’m super excited to be a part of The Care and Keeping of Museum Professionals, to be published by the time the AAM 2019 conference comes around this year. It’s a collection of essays and reflections by museum professionals about creating just and equitable working environments for museum workers. Sarah Erdman, the instigator and project manager approached me to write a chapter about internships. I guess it’s my thing now, which is fine by me.
I managed to submit work to a few places. Some panned out, some didn’t, and some I’m still waiting to hear back from, but the important thing for me at this point is doing it consistently. Saying yes to sharing my projects has led to a more consistent practice, and challenges my internal narratives about what is worth doing and sharing.
One of those submissions is an essay about museum tropes in American films that has been stuck in my notebook in random thoughts form for a year now. If Fwd: Museums isn’t interested in publishing it, I’ll make sure to share it elsewhere because it was so fun to write (and finish).
Some are the result of trying new visual mediums out, which has been really fun. I put my pizza print from a letterpress class I took at Pratt into the Everyone’s Floored show at The Alice gallery, submitted a cute lumen print into Long Shot hosted by PCNW, and played around with block printing for the Hey Lady Karen Dalton zine.
One goal from the Louisiana trip I shared pictures from was to start working on a project that explores the history of St. Malo, a former fishing village out in the marshes of Louisiana that no longer exists. After playing around with different binding formats, writing, printmaking, and map research, I’ve finally put it all together into a working draft of an accordion book. There are a few kinks to work out with the layout and materials, but it’s almost there! I’m excited to share it soon.
That’s all for now!