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Alumni Explain Career Paths in Museums

Panelists speak about their careers in museums. (Maria Feijoo / Index)

On Thursday April 21, the Kalamazoo College Art Department sponsored the Exploring Museum Careers with K Alum event. This entailed a discussion led by a panel of K alumni that are currently working in museum careers.

The first panelist, John Steele, the Director of Conservation at the Detroit Institute of Art, discussed the various requirements and skills required to getting accepted into a conservation graduate school in the United States.

The next panelist was Courtney Tompkins K’08 who currently works for the National Gallery of Art as Assistant in the Program of Research. She first became interested in working for a museum while on study abroad in Rome, and has worked on a diverse amount of art in the past.

“I studied the renaissance [at K],” Tompkins said. “[I] went [the] complete opposite in grad school and did American and contemporary [art], and now I do neither and I work somewhere in between.  But I’m grateful that I’ve learned that there are so many tools that you learn and use in both of them so I’m not scared of working in a time period that I don’t necessarily have a background in.”  Her current work involves creating an online database for American landscape paintings.

The last member of the panel was Dr. Holly Witchey, the current Director of The Wade Project at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland.

Witchey gave the audience some advice on connecting with others, which is important in any line of work. Taking out several items from her bag, Witchey explained the tools of her trade. “This is a small notebook. When I go somewhere new, I write about the person I met, and if they have this great interesting story… I write down their name and contact them,” she explained. “This is a Crane’s Thank You Note. Write a person that gives you anything a thank you note. You don’t have to ask them for a job or anything … [but] when you do go looking for a job or you want someone to write your resume, they’ll remember you.”

After the panelists told their stories, they answered questions from the students and faculty in attendance.

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Alumni Explain Career Paths in Museums