Another month, another blog. This month we decided we would talk to you about careers. I’m sure everyone has heard the questions: “so what are you going to do when you graduate?” “is that a viable option?” “what job do you want to do?” blah blah blah…so this won’t be like that. Luckily I am still volunteering at York Minster with the collection team. Our pilgrimage exhibition has been open for a few weeks now and I am really proud of it. We’re finishing off the evaluation at the moment, and then technically my ‘internship’ ends, but fret not! I have been offered another volunteer role at the Minster as the ‘digital content volunteer’. I actually don’t know what this entails yet but will know by next Friday! All very exciting and I’m chuffed to have been asked to continue volunteering there. All good steps on the career ladder they say…
A few days ago, I went to a talk by some York alumni who now work as assistant curators at the V&A and it was great! They basically said that they didn’t get the first curatorial role they went for, nor the 5th or the 10th but they persevered. They also said volunteering was the way forward (to paraphrase). It was a really interesting talk, only marred by my having to watch the clock to be able to get to my Latin revision in time (who said students don’t have fun?) Nonetheless, York is an excellent place to be able to tap into these little nuggets – it is reassuring to know that these professionals were once in the same boat I am in now and that the course ‘art history’ in tandem with ‘York’ is respected in the museum world (lecturers always say it, but it feels different coming from someone completely different). The talk was inspiring and I went away feeling happier about my life choices. It will be hard but I relish that challenge. York has taught me so much in my very short time here and I can’t wait to see what the future brings – hopefully cake and tea in abundance.
But anyway, on with work. We have a dissertation portfolio due in in a few days. Unluckily I had to switch dissertation subject a few days ago so it has been manic. Till next time.
I distinctly remember a specific incident at an event in Washington D.C., where I had been finishing my undergraduate degree. I had just told an older gentleman what I was studying. “Well, what do you expect to do with that?” he asked skeptically, all the while stuffing cheesy shrimp rolls into his mouth. I was not a stranger to this patronizing question; in fact, most students of the humanities will receive this question sooner or later. At the time, I was interning with the curatorial team at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture garden, and despite how much I was learning, I still felt as if I could never possibly secure an actual job. I’ve completed a lot of internships and volunteer positions over the past six years of my higher education, and I have enjoyed every single one of them. But each time I was always anxious about whether or not I was doing my best, or if my best was the right “best” for the position.
Museums are generally wonderful places to work— my current placement with Yorkshire Sculpture Park is exemplary of that. You’re surrounded by people who are as dedicated and passionate as you are about culture and history, and together you strive to serve communities, inspire research, and steward collections. But with each new museum you work for, there is certainly a learning curve. There’s a lot of short-hand you need to catch up on, and operations usually move at a pretty clipping pace.
As dissertations loom and I begin to apply for jobs, fellowships, and PhD programs, I still feel unsure about whether I’ll be able to achieve what I want. But after gaining the skills I have through the MA program, I certainly don’t feel as anxious anymore. I know I have what I need in my tool kit to effectively problem-solve the unknowns.
At the time, I didn’t have a witty answer for the gentleman at the event with an affinity for dairy and seafood. And I still don’t, really. It’s difficult to sum up the absolute importance of the arts, culture, and robust scholarship in a twitter-worthy comeback (if you have any good ones, let me know). But I think the best response is to prove what I hope to do with my actions. Here’s looking forward to a lot of failures, and maybe equally as many successes—neither of which will be wasted.