I have been working in the museum field in the US since 1996. Over the years my responsibilities have included collections management, curation, and museum administration. Before I embarked on this Fulbright adventure, I was running this museum in downtown Boston, Massachusetts:
It’s the Old State House, and it’s the main museum site for Boston’s city historical organization, which is called The Bostonian Society. The Old State House played a central role in the lead-up to the American Revolution in Boston, and as such it is now a major site along Boston’s Freedom Trail.
In my day-to-day work at the Old State House, I directed the daily operations of the museum, developed new exhibitions, and drove long-range interpretive and strategic planning. The most interesting piece of my “multiple hat” job was new content development, whether that means an exhibition, a lecture for teachers on using artifacts in the classroom, or online programming.
One of the questions I kept on coming back to in this work is what makes Boston, Boston? As an undergraduate I was an urban studies major, which provided training in comparative urbanism and in the close-observation skills required to understand cities in all their complex, overlapping influences and nuances. When I first chose a career in museums, I did it for the material culture—for the powerful role that artifacts play in illuminating the core questions of humanity. The study of material culture is not unlike the study of urban culture: both use direct observation of the tangible to make larger, abstract statements about the way we live, work, and play. The more time I spent working for The Bostonian Society, the more I kept circling back around to an urban studies question: the role that history—and city history museums—play in shaping a city’s identity.