It is troubling that I have not felt I had the time to update this blog until now, even during the best of my procrastination efforts. I have finally (FINALLY) gotten to the stage in my process of "eliminating extraneous time-sucking activities from my life" where I can actually reap the benefits. Benefits like blogging.
So, quick update: I'm getting my degree in nonprofit management with the end goal of (here's hoping) working in museum management. My rationale was that even though I'd much rather pursue a history or anthropology degree, in my experience what museums seemed to need was money and resources, and that it might behoove me to know how to get those things if I really wanted to help museums. Not the right course of action for everyone, I'm sure, but so far it's working for me. I'm just now finishing up my first year of the program and crossing my fingers that I get my top-choice internship for the summer.
Most recently I've been thinking a lot about a discussion that's happening on the MUSEUM-L listserv right now. A museum manager posted the question "is love of history enough for an intern?" Essentially -- it would seem she cannot, among her applicants, find people that have the appropriate skills for the internship, appropriate computer knowledge and such. She wonders if a deep love of history is enough or if she is remiss in expecting people to have additional, more practical skills.
The discussion has been pretty interesting (the archive is here, if you're interested), and the general consensus seems to be that love of history is important but skills are also important. Not surprising, really.
The surprise to me was what two students posted in response to the original question, both lamenting the lack of museum internship opportunities. One poster, who has a degree in Social Studies and education, says that she is unable to find experience in the museum field because she does not have the appropriate prerequisites, a vicious circle whereby she cannot get a museum job because she cannot get museum experience. Another poster says his or her portfolio has been called "great" but been turned down for (internships? jobs? I assume internships since that is the thread's subject, but the poster doesn't make it clear.) That poster asks if the manager is turning down someone technically proficient for someone who looks good on paper.
I'm sort of bemused by these complaints. I imagine someone with a social studies/education background would have little trouble getting some kind of volunteer experience in a museum setting. It makes me wonder if these people are really looking at their skills and how they could be used in the museum setting? In my experience, museums want help. Even in places with a high concentration of skilled people interested in museum work, there is usually a place for someone who wants to learn.
Museums are weird places right now. It's only fairly recently that we perceive museums as being truly "public" spaces, and they suffer, along with libraries and other similar institutions, from a host of problems like funding issues, (sometimes) lack of public support, how to be culturally sensitive, how to compete in an increasingly entrepreneurial system where museum shops vie with the museum itself for center stage (in some cases.) But I feel like that kind of provides an interesting opportunity for creative souls who may not have "traditional" museum experience -- in a shifting world, there is room for all kinds of skills if you have the love of the subject. Education skills, people skills, business skills, cataloging skills -- all applicable.
Of course, there is the issue of "The Economy" looming over everything at the moment, so I'm not suggesting that people just buck up and reword their resumes and they'll get a job. But I do think that simply getting experience is less of an insurmountable hurdle than these students seem to believe. Then again, I'm an eternal optimist, so I'm happy to hear contrary opinions.