Nice work if you can get it: Museum Girl

It seems to me that Fridays are a day largely devoted to doing as little as possible and maybe hating your job a tiny bit. That co-worker who steals your Lean Cuisine? Kind of want to shank them. This ridiculously small cubical? Totally over it.
Thus, it makes perfect sense to spend a bit of your Friday reading about fantastic and envy-inducing jobs that you could pursue instead of this one with the small cubical and the annoying colleague. This will be a weekly series, and I promise you some doozies. Opera singer! Handbag designer! Sled dog veterinarian!So without further ado, the first in our series: Nia M. – Museum Girl.


I met Nia when she was a wee fourteen years old, the younger sister of a friend of mine. She turned out to be significantly cooler than said friend and we spent much of high school engaging in shenanigans, deep in the woods of Palisade, Minnesota. These days, Nia rides her bike everywhere (even in the snow!), knows about everything that’s cool three weeks before you do and hangs out with bearded hotties.

So what’s the deal? What do you do?

I work at the Natural History Museum. I make science programs for the public and help to design exhibits.
Tell us about an average day in life of your job.
The average day: sit at the computer, email scientists, read some things about science, write event copy, talk to my colleagues about random things, drink coffee, sit around a big table “brainstorming” about…science.
How did you get into museum work?
Kind of by accident. I wrote a paper about habitat dioramas (those old school natural history museum displays) for a class I was taking on science and the humanities. In the course of my research I met the curator of the Bell Museum, and got interested in museum history and display techniques. After that I elbowed my way in as an unpaid intern, and eventually they offered me a job.
Do you have any special museum -related training?
Not really. That’s the thing about museums – there really isn’t an option for formal training, unless you want to be a curator. I studied comparative literature and the history of science, which I guess is good preparation for thinking about museum content and how to engage visitors.
Are there any drawbacks to working in at a museum?
I’ll never be a millionaire.
What are the highlights?
It’s a creative job, and it allows me to make use of my brain and my communications skills on a daily basis. Plus it’s fun to see your ideas come to life and to know that people appreciate what you do – and hopefully, they learn something too.
What are the misconceptions about this kind of work?
That museums are full of stuffy academics. There are a few stuffy academics, but its mostly alcoholic academics and misplaced artists.
What suggestions would you give to people interested in working in museums?
You have to be willing to work hard and contribute your creative energies without any real individual recognition, but as long as you’re okay with that, it’s a really fun job. It helps to have a genuine interest in the public good, whatever that might mean to you. And you have to like working with other people – it’s definitely not a good job for people who tend to work best on their own.

Any Museum lovers out there? Any queries for the lovely Nia?

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4 Comments

  1. Freya

    That’s awesome. I thought about trying for a job with the Field Museum, but I ended up getting an offer in Journalism so I took it.

    One question: Is there a lot of potential to move up in a few years from your current position? Or would you have to get a masters in history or something to move up? And I suppose, would you want to?

    Reply
  2. ***************

    I think it probably depends on the individual institution and their expectations.

    There are places where you certainly can move up to new positions if you bust ass and make it happen – but there are some things (upper management positions, or things that require a specific background) that might require or at least prefer an MA – specifically in curatorial fields, be they science or art.

    Reply
  3. MICHELLE.K

    ahh i love your blog 🙂 your post’s are very interesting.

    Reply
  4. Sarah Von Bargen

    Michelle – thanks! It´s always nice to have new people join the party 🙂

    Reply

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