Caroline Posynick is an extroverted collections manager in Victoria, BC, Canada, who loves to preserve museum and archival collections just as much as she loves to share what she ‘discovers’ in their holdings. Caroline went into this career to be one who works directly with objects and materials but she now finds that it is using those materials to connect with people that means most to her in this cultural work that she loves to do.
I work as the archivist in a library at a university that is also a national historic site. I also continue to consult to museums – right now I am the tour coordinator for an exhibition that is traveling around British Columbia. Additionally, I am on the Communications Committee for the British Columbia Museums Association.
What’s your educational background?
I have a Master of Arts in Museums Studies, specializing in collections management, from John F. Kennedy University in Berkeley, California. My undergraduate degree is in History.
What was your ‘sticky’ moment?
I have always loved history, and wanted to find a unique way to turn this interest into a career. After some traveling and working in a museum gift shop overseas, I returned home to look for employment in a museum, thinking this might be a fit. It wasn’t quite that easy, of course, to just walk in and get a job, and so I thought I would get my ‘foot in the door’ through volunteering at the biggest museum in town. My sticky moment came when I spoke at length with a volunteer coordinator who heard my interest in history and personal connections/stories and matched me up behind the scenes with the military history curator. This curator had just received a donation of a footlocker that had belonged to a man who was a World War II soldier, and the curator needed a volunteer to go through and carefully catalogue its contents. I had never considered – or thought of? — this type of detail-oriented museum work, but I can tell you that by organizing the personal letters, medals, uniforms and photographs, I immediately understood the importance of museums as memory keepers and places that record and tell stories through objects. From that day forward, I was hooked.
What is the name of your blog? How long have you been blogging?
The name of my blog is Museum Work Musings and I have been blogging since September 2010. (Though it feels longer! I think I have been writing it in my brain for a longer time, ha ha.) I began blogging after a contract job ended and just as I was promoting a conference that I was chairing. It was a busy, exciting time, and I wanted a place to record my personal thoughts on museums in order to connect with other professionals.
What do you blog about? Why?
I blog about fundamental museum issues such as funding and ‘what is a museum’ as well as recognizing the challenges we have as museum professionals sustaining a career in the cultural sector. Full time jobs can be difficult to find, and this blog is my place to explore why this might be. I also just can’t help but love museums and all they do and wanted to be part of the ongoing conversation of how (I hope) museums are evolving in these challenging times.
Have you ever regretted a blog post?
Right before I started my job as an archivist, I blogged about how museums, archives and libraries have more in common than we talk about, and I offered up examples and solutions as to what we could do to make these connections stronger. Somehow, somewhere, this post raised some eyebrows . . . and some ire. I didn’t intend to provoke, so I took it down and decided I had better get some experience under my belt and explore this topic more empirically rather than in my usual ‘think out loud’ perspective. And so for the past year and a half, I have been observing and contemplating archives and libraries more intensely. I still think we need to work together more because, hey, we’re all in the information sharing and memory recording business. I am just on the cusp of revisiting the old post to see how I could word it in a way that couldn’t be taken as a confrontation, which is what I think may have happened the first time around.
What’s your most read blog post? Tell us about it.
“An Inventory Project in a Small Museum” is my most read post, which is a bare-bones description of a project I undertook to lead a group of volunteers through an inventory of their entire collection. Rereading it right now, it is very basic, but I think it is popular because most museums are small museums with few staff, and an inventory needs to be broken down into easy steps in order to take on this daunting task.
Actually, it was given to me, with the mention it was from the Royal BC Museum shop: it is the best travel mug I have ever had. It’s red, black and white First Nations design with a metal insert that keeps my tea hot hot hot. I love it and use it every day . . . well away from the archival holdings, of course!
I have been tweeting as @Owl_ since November 2008. I find it provides instant communication with colleagues, amazing links to articles, and a very lively culture where people are just brimming with information. I also think that Twitter is like a river – you have to be all in, retweeting and @ mentioning people or you just don’t get the full benefit of being there. That being said, I have been known to take looooong breaks and then get back into it. Currently I take a dip in Twitter about three days a week.
And about the name . . . it made sense at the time! I have debated changing it to a more ‘normal’ name – i.e. my own – but it seems as if I have become sentimentally attached to this one. Maybe this post on owls at the BC Museums Association 2010 conference will shed some light?
What do you see as the biggest challenge (or opportunity) facing museums today?
RELEVANCE! RELEVANCE! RELEVANCE!
Museums have all this cool stuff but if we don’t share it through exhibitions, research, or online (social and otherwise), who is going to care? Our institutions and staff need to be available, information sharing, approachable, interesting, giving members of our communities or we will be seen as a nice-to-have, please-pay-to-visit organization rather than the memory keepers/recorders/researchers that we really are. In order to be relevant, we have to be nimble, and want to give more than get in an effort to connect. Museums also have to play well with others, whether it’s with our funders, fans, other institutions and, yes, even with the indifferent.
Share one piece of advice for those interested in working in the museum field:
I am actually going to share two pieces of advice:
1. If you are young and unencumbered, travel to your first job, don’t go to the Big City and pray your dream job is ready for you right from the start. Be brave, and go to the small places that don’t have a large population and sink your teeth into doing it all at a little institution, because that’s what you have to do! You may end up being a director at a young age, attending town council meetings, while you balance the museum’s books, while you clean the galleries, while deciding the next exhibition and programming, etc. Pretty darn amazing experience.
2. Another thing someone early in their career should consider is volunteering for their local professional association. Don’t just be the person who works at the desk handing out programs at conference time: get your name out there by volunteering to organize sessions, introduce speakers and all those front-row moments. Or write a post for their blog. Or talk to the president and see if there’s a spot on council / the board. Just get out there with your colleagues and be a team. It helps you figure out who’s who in your immediate area . . . and people start to recognize your name as well!
Thanks for participating in Meet a Museum Blogger, Caroline!
In case you missed it, Caroline blogs at Museum Work Musings.
Do you have any additional questions for Caroline regarding her profile above? Feel free to start a conversation in the comments below or reach out to her directly on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is @Owl_. I highly encourage you to use the #MuseumBlogger hashtag. TY!
Are you interested in being profiled or know someone who would be? Send an email to MuseumMinute@gmail.com.