From Intern to Staff Member to Higher Education and Beyond

Posted on February 24th, 2014 by

The past six months have been life-changing for me, largely due to my work with the Jewish Museum of Maryland. I gained so much valuable knowledge this summer from working as an intern in the Education and Programs department, helping with school and camp groups as well as assisting with and creating new programs for visitors of all ages. My experience led me to the conclusion that I should pursue a career in museum work, with a focus on the public side of museum operations.

I studied dance and English at Goucher College, and have since learned the art of teaching and performing static aerial arts and flying trapeze. During my internship, I often discussed my future goals and plans with my supervisors and fellow interns. Within the museum field, there are many different areas of study, and thus, many different paths to choose. My background in performing arts gives me the unique advantage of absolutely loving public speaking. Consequently, the time I spent working as a docent for tours and as a guide for groups helped me create some of my favorite moments of my internship. I learned so much from these moments, including the idea that if you gain the trust of visitors and students, they will open up to you about their curiosity, and give you the opportunity to share more of your knowledge with them.

My experiences working with visitors and helping to run the public side of the museum made me hungry for more. I loved coming to work every single day. Even though my internship was ending in August, I wasn’t ready to leave the museum. I consulted Ilene about the coming year. She and I agreed: I should become a Museum Educator. I could come to the museum on a part-time basis, allowing me to keep the same hours at my other job. I could continue working on curriculum development, helping to update the new education Facebook page, and, most importantly, working with school groups on tours as well as facilitating educational programs with them. It was a great opportunity to spend more time learning first-hand about working in museums.

I also made the decision at the end of the summer to apply to graduate school, but still didn’t know exactly what field to choose. I enjoyed learning so much; I honestly had trouble deciding what I didn’t want to study. Additionally, I had difficulty choosing which graduate school strategy was best for me; would I be served better by getting a degree in a specific field of study? Or, if I pursued a more general degreesuch as Museum Studieswould it hinder more than help my career because of its lack of focus? Lucky enough to be working in a museum during this confusing time, I consulted essentially every person I worked with on a regular basis. Although I received many suggestions, I eventually realized that I knew more than I thought about which path I should take. Nonetheless, hearing about the different journeys of those with whom I spoke helped to more brightly illuminate my intended path.

I made my choice: I am now applying for a master’s degree in Museum Studies. Museum Education was a field that I felt was too similar to my previous graduate studies—a graduate teaching certificate for TESL. Other museum degrees, like Exhibition Design and Preservation, were fascinating to me, but I wanted to broaden my scope of potential employment. There are Museum Studies programs all over the US, but after consulting several long-time museum professionals, I felt confident that, if my primary goal was to find a job in the museum field upon finishing my degree, George Washington University was my best bet. The fact that GW is one of the oldest and best-known programs in the field, as well as the endless possibilities for flexibility of curriculum, customization of concentration, networking, and internship choices the program offers made my choice to apply very easy. I chose the exhibition and public engagement concentration, which puts the focus of the master’s degree on the study of the visitor relationship with the museum.

I am now in the final stages of completing my application, and I can say that my experience at the Jewish Museum these past seven months has been truly invaluable to my professional progress. Without the JMM internship, and subsequently my experience as a Museum Educator, I would be miles from reaching my goal of lending my perspective to a field of work that I have come to love so much.

Marissa WalkerA blog post by Museum Education Marissa Walker.

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The Fox Point Oral History Project

Posted on April 27th, 2012 by

A blog post by Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

This past month I had the pleasure of being on a panel at the Oral History Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR) Conference. The presentation was very special for me because I had the opportunity to talk about my work at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and my graduate work while studying at Brown University. The conference allowed me to have a mini-reunion with my fellow Brown alumni who I worked with on a project called The Fox Point Oral History Project.

One of my greatest accomplishments at Brown was working on The Fox Point Oral History Project. The project began as an oral history and community engagement project that has continued to grow each year. While I was a student I interviewed former and past residents of Fox Point, a neighborhood that borders on Brown’s campus. The residents had wonderful stories and photographs that documented the diverse communities that lived and worked there, including Cape Verdeans, Portuguese, and African Americans. The neighborhood is located on the water in Providence so many residents there worked as longshoremen and stevedores.  The landscape of the neighborhood has changed and population has transitioned from a mostly working class neighborhood to one filled with student, professors, and professionals. Students and teachers at Brown realized the importance of this neighborhood and how it has rapidly changed and therefore began collecting oral histories and photographs from long time residents of the neighborhood.

After establishing a relationship with the community and collecting stories and memories we proceeded to share this history with the current residents of the neighborhood. We established a relationship with the local elementary school called Vartan Gregorian Elementary School and installed an exhibit in the hallways of the school using photographs and oral histories from the oral histories we collected. We then worked with the middle school students to teach them about the history of their neighborhood. After studying the history of the neighborhood the 6th graders added their own photographs to the exhibit that documented their current perspective of the neighborhood. Finally, the 6th graders were trained as docents and gave tours of the exhibition to their fellow students and members of the community at the exhibition opening and throughout the year.

The Fox Point Oral History Project was a wonderful opportunity for me. Talking about it at the OHMAR panel in relation to my work at the JMM really reminded me how much my graduate work helped to launch my career doing outreach and community engagement work. It also made me appreciate how lucky I am to have the opportunity to continue to do great community-museum work at the JMM through projects such as our partnership with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School. I’m looking forward to see what community projects are in store for next year.

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