Libraries, Museums & Public History

Andrea Gray ’05 earned her M.A. in History with a minor in Public History from North Carolina State, where she discovered a love for documentary editing.  After a stint at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, VA, she began working on The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, headquartered at Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, first as as editorial assistant and now as assistant editor.  In addition, Andrea is working towards a Ph.D. in History at George Mason University. She writes, “My time at UPS fostered my interest in American history, and I learned that I really enjoy research. I wanted to find a career that would allow me to continue doing historical research and helping others do the same, hence my professional interest in archives and making manuscript sources accessible through documentary editing.” Current students should know that “the documentary editing career field is rather small. Most projects want editors who have advanced history degrees, and editing experience is always a bonus even for entry-level positions.” Andrea encourages students considering this career “to try and incorporate editing primary source documents into their research projects, or work with faculty on editing sources related to their research.”

Tiffani Egnor ’06 isCurator of Education at the Chandler Museum in Chandler, AZ.  After graduation, Tiffani began the MA in Public History and Museum Studies from Colorado State University, while also working at the Fort Collins Museum in collections and exhibits, and with History Colorado as a Family Programs Facilitator.  After completing her graduate degree, she stayed on at the Fort Collins Museum, working in a variety of part-time roles before landing a permanent position as School and Public Programs Coordinator. In 2012, Tiffani moved to the Chandler.  She writes, “My passion as a local history museum educator is getting local primary sources into the hands of learners.  I created our Use Local, Teach National Lesson Plan Series which uses local primary sources (like Dorothea Lange photographs taken here in Chandler) to teach national history.  Another project I really enjoyed was creating an interactive Cattle Drive exhibit.” She credits small classes and challenging professors at UPS with helping prepare her for success in graduate school, and writes that “Doug Sackman's History of the American West course sparked my passion for history, and the senior thesis sparked my passion for primary sources.” Those interested in a museum career, Tiffani suggests, should “volunteer and intern as much as they can, as early as they can.  I've watched many people (including myself) start as volunteers or interns or part-time employees and work their way into full-time positions.”  

Stephen Somerville ’07 worked with several Seattle-area museums after graduation, with the aim of building a career in collections management.  He writes, “While it was a cool environment to be in, it can be a rude awakening to find how much time and work goes towards cultivating donations and membership versus promoting, preserving, and sharing their collections.” After several years managing donor databases, Stephen earned his Masters of Library and Information Science and became a Taxonomist with Corbis Images, a company that licenses photos and other media. He writes, “Our collections cover everything from daguerrotypes to paparazzi snaps, and my work revolves around trying to make the millions of images accessible. My experience as a History major helped me develop a more global perspective that has been quite handy as I try to keep tabs on organizing every subject that might be depicted in a photograph!” He encourages current History majors to take a broad range of courses: “The requirement that history courses be taken from a variety of geographical regions can be a real blessing in disguise.  Learning about a variety of places can help set you up to succeed in our global society, regardless of whether or not you ultimately end up poring over illuminated manuscripts, sunken treasure, etc.”

Joan Ilacqua’s ‘10 is a project archivist at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, one of the largest medical libraries in the world.  Joan writes that her first job after graduation, as an intern at the Yosemite National Park Archives in El Portal, CA, “reminded me of why I decided to study history, I want to help protect and preserve historical resources so that others may utilize and enjoy them.  After this first job, I went on to work for three other national parks, a presidential library, a living history museum, and a university archives, and ultimately went to graduate school to study Public History.” Looking back at her undergraduate years, Joan remembers, “I always had fun studying history, but I became passionate about history while at Puget Sound. Studying under professors passionate about the past and willing to discuss and debate historical interpretations transformed me into an active historian, as opposed to a passive history enthusiast. Puget Sound also gave me a strong writing background and a fearlessness to tackle history I found interesting. I spent a summer as a Chism Research Scholar studying the Boston Busing Crisis, and then wrote my undergraduate thesis on Northwest Regionalism and Sasquatch. I now work as an medical history oral historian, and I create and run LGBT history walking tours for a volunteer-run community archives.” She regrets not volunteering or interning while still in college, and encourages current students to make the most of opportunities to get experience and network before graduation. “Volunteer with a museum, join professional organizations, and go to conferences, workshops, and other meet ups. You can also connect with museum professionals online, through listservs, Reddit boards, and Twitter hashtags. Find out what people are excited or concerned about and put yourself in that conversation.” 

While completing a Master’s degree in Museology at the University of Washington, Danielle Acheampong ’11 became fascinated with audience research, which led to a role as the education manager at USC’s Fisher Museum of Art. Danielle is currently Coordinator for Assessment, Research & Special Projects at UCLA, a job that involves collaboration with numerous university departments.  Her talent for evaluating learning experiences has led to speaking engagements at several conferences in the U.S. and Canada, as well as independent projects for Los Angeles-area museums and community colleges. Danielle credits her success to key skills she honed as a History major at Puget Sound, particularly the ability to conduct research, analyze different types of sources critically, synthesize large quantities of information, and present findings clearly.  She notes, “I have gotten consistent feedback that my unique perspective from my liberal arts background has strengthened our department,” and encourages current students to “Know your skills, and know how to describe them persuasively” so prospective employers will know how much History majors have to offer.

Alex Carr ’11 pursued her longstanding interest in journalism and earned an M.A. in Multimedia Journalism, interning to get vital experience “with writing and reporting across print, online and broadcast platforms.”  Not sure she wanted to become a traditional journalist, she applied for communications jobs that required these skills, and landed a job as Digital Media Coordinator at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. After two years in this role, Alex was promoted to the position of Communications Manager, and has since taken on additional public relations responsibilities at the museum. She writes, “Being able to practice my multimedia skills within a small organization has been incredibly rewarding because I get to collaborate with other departments, meet world-renowned artists, learn about the history and craft of glassmaking, and communicate with the public on a daily basis. And I'm not always tied to my desk! I could be down in the museum's glassblowing studio taking photos one morning, then providing press tours the next. I'm always busy at work, and I wouldn't have it any other way.” Alex credits the strong writing and research skills she gained studying History with helping her succeed in graduate school and her career.  As she says, “Researching, writing papers, and citing sources also gave me an eye for detail.  In my current job I'm constantly writing material that gets deliver to the public, press, community partners, and museum members, so accuracy and credibility is essential. I also work with a lot of images of artwork, which needs to be credited appropriately - not unlike citing sources in a research paper!” Current students should know that “a History degree can definitely be applied to a job in the communications field because of the writing, research, and presentation (both oral and written) skills you gain” by studying history. 

Julia Miller ’11 has pursued a career in museum education as a way of combining her love of research, teaching, and working with children.  After spending a year interning at museums and teaching preschool, Julia enrolled in the Museology M.A. program at the University of Washington, where she “learned about the theory and role of museums in society, researched methods of informal learning and evaluation, and held a ton of museum internships in education and evaluation.” After graduation in 2014, she worked for a year at the Woodland Park Zoo and Burke Museum in education roles before finding her current position as the Youth & Family Education Coordinator at the Bellevue Arts Museum, where she “oversees everything from summer camps to teen programs.” Julia writes, “The most rewarding part of my job is working with kids and families to ignite their curiosity and passion for learning! In museums, there are always new objects, exhibits, stories, and themes to explore, and I love figuring out different ways to connect people to objects and each other. For me, it’s especially exciting to see enthusiasm and creativity in young children when they are learning about something new, making art, or working together to solve a problem.”  Three skills Julia took away from studying History at UPS have been vitally important in her graduate studies and professional life: the ability to write well, listen actively and respond thoughtfully, and develop arguments based on critical assessments of information.  She encourages current students interested in museum work to “test-drive” the career by interning or volunteering, doing informational interviews, and reading museum blogs like Museum 2.0.  She says, “The museum field is pretty small and the nonprofit world can feel frustrating at times, but it is full of people who are really passionate about learning and preserving knowledge for future generations. Incorporate your own passions into your career and be open to opportunities that don’t seem like the perfect fit – that’s the best way to figure out what path is best for you!”

After graduation, Rachel Thomas ’11 went on to earn an M.A. in Early American and U.S. History from the College of William and Mary, where she also had the opportunity to work as an Archives Apprentice while completing her studies.  After a break to be a stay-at-home mom to her two children, Rachel took up her current position as an archivist at George Fox University in Newberg, OR.  At GFU, Rachel is the University Archivist as well as the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Archivist, and so is responsible for managing an important collection of materials related to the Quaker Church.  Rachel writes that her work is “wonderful and fulfilling,” and identifies her undergraduate work in Collins Library’s Archives as a key experience that set her on the path to her current career.  She advises current students interested in archival work to “check job postings for positions in your field, then try to gain the experience they require. Seek an internship in archives and go after a MLIS degree with an archival concentration. An MA in history won't hurt!”  

Marissa Friedman ’14 spent the year after graduation tutoring and teaching while preparing to graduate school by volunteering at a local history museum, where she gained essential archival and digital skills.  She is now pursuing a Ph.D. in History with an emphasis on Public History at the University of California, Riverside, on a Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship. She is especially interested in pursuing museum curating and education, but is enjoying learning about the various other public history career possibilities. She credits faculty mentors like Nancy Bristow with “inspiring me to combine my talents for studying history with my desire to help enable social change and to work for social justice,” and says, “writing a senior thesis was an invaluable experience for someone like myself who is undertaking graduate studies.  I learned the nuts and bolts of constructing and deconstructing arguments, composing succinct and well-written papers, undertaking historical research through a variety of mediums, and using citations.” Marissa notes that public history careers “generally require an advanced degree – usually a master’s in related fields such as history, public history, museum studies, etc., although a Ph.D. is necessary for certain jobs,” and the field can be hard to break into, so “gaining practical experience is key – my advice would be to intern or volunteer in as many different kinds of organizations and institutions as you can. The more diverse your skills are, the more desirable you will be to almost any institution, but particularly the smaller ones who need people who can perform in multiple positions. And acquiring digital skills would be a big plus!”