Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peeking Into the Museum World

I have a master's degree in history. I am currently not using that degree (unless you count the research I do for my novels), yet I am still paying for that degree.

That rankles.

It's not that I really wanted to get into the current field I'm in. It just sort of happened. I needed a job when I got my grad degree and I didn't really have the luxury of finding a job that fit in my field (since those jobs are incredibly hard to come by anyway). So the job I landed was in my other area of expertise, writing. And that job made me not only a much better writer, but it also springboarded me into my next job.

However, while I have mostly enjoyed my career writing for different companies, it has taken me further and further away from a career in history.

I would like to change that. I have reached a point in my life where I want to be working at something I enjoy for 8 hours a day.

Thus, I have been looking at my options, trying to figure out what I'd like to do in the history field, if I need to go back to school, what kind of jobs are available, and where I would best fit in. To that end, I contacted my local historical society and asked them if I could job shadow at the state museum to see if I could get a feel for what goes on at a museum.

I went there this morning and had an amazing time. Not only was the museum staff incredibly gracious and helpful, but they made me realize how much better life is when you are doing something you love. Why do I say this? Because nearly every single person I talked to had been at their job for years and years. All of them said they absolutely loved their job. How many people do you hear say that?

I want to be one of those people.

(This does not mean that I am leaving the novel-writing behind. Far from it! I think I will write fiction no matter what type of day-job I have. My ideal life would be to have the opportunity to work part-time at a museum and then work the rest of the time on my novels. Ah...bliss!)

I loved learning the ins and outs of what makes a museum work. I talked to the education coordinator, the registrar, the exhibits department (I had a ton of fun with those guys - all of them creative and full of life!), the collections department, and the museum director. Each person offered wonderful advice and encouragement, and answered all my questions.

I now realize that I don't necessarily need to go back to school to get a museum studies degree, a fact that gives me tremendous relief considering I wasn't quite in the mood to go back to school and also had no desire to add to that considerable student loan I've accumulated.

But that doesn't mean I can just sit idly by and wait for a job to open up. I plan to volunteer for special projects, get into the museum more, and look for opportunities to learn via online courses or workshops.

This all just feels right. Working hands on with history is a dream of mine. Seeing the massive amount of historical items stored in the museum, looking at all the wonderful exhibits, and watching how it all comes together made me realize that being surrounded by history is exactly where I want to be.

From here, who knows what will happen. But I'm excited for a new journey to begin!


  1. That's wonderful Melissa. See how pro-active you are!! opportunities can be created, and by volunteering you are not only learning the ropes, but also showing how keen you are and in the best place when jobs do come up!! You're a STAR!! Well Done!! :)

  2. Congratulations, Melissa! Doesn't it feel wonderful to find something that just eletrifies you? I'm very excited for you and I wish you the greatest success!

  3. Kudos to you for taking the initiative to job shadow and research the possibilities. And it's true, often positions do grow from the volunteering services. Have fun!

  4. And you sound excited too. Good luck with it - and go for it.

  5. That is wonderful. It is a tremendous feeling to do something you love. And reading about your life gives me insight into the future of my middle son whose two loves are history and writing!

  6. Congratulations! I'm glad you've made a decision that will lead you down the path that interests you. I'm still fumbling on that one. My day job is convenient (8 min drive from home) and pays well with pension and benefits but OH SO BORING! I am planning on spending 2010 getting all my debt paid off so I have the luxury of being able to look around at different options even if I have to take a bit of a pay cut. Good luck with your search and keep us posted!

  7. I am so proud of you!!! I always believe we should be doing what we love. My husband just went back to college to get his Golf Management degree at age 55. It is never ever too late!

  8. Good for you. I'm always wishing I could be employed to do something I loved rather than simply working to pay my mortgage.

  9. That is wonderful, Melissa. That is my dream field as well, although I'd be perfectly happy writing history. Congratulations on your move - you're on your way!

  10. Kudos to you for recognizing what you want and taking steps to get there! It's too easy, sometimes, to settle for what we have, instead of working for what we want.

  11. Melissa - that sounds so cool!!! I'm glad you had such a great day that will hopefully open up new possibilities for you career-wise.

    How would you get an MS degree without going back to school? Do they do one based on work experience? Wow - that is so neat!!

  12. Tess - you don't have to have an MS degree at all. Since I have the MA in history, that would be enough - plus the experience. :-)


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