“If Zombies attacked your museum, what one item would you save from your collection?”
That was one of many questions asked to museum curators Joshua Fox and Susan Beates during a virtual question and answer session Wednesday afternoon.
Fox and Beates are curators from the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum and Drake Well Museum, respectively. The session was held via Zoom, with a stream on Facebook live.
The curators carved out time from their busy schedules to participate in the 10th anniversary of the popular event #AskaCurator. The event was hosted and moderated by Melissa Mann, site administrator for the Drake Well Museum.
The virtual gathering featured questions from the audience, as well as questions submitted via Facebook. The questions were centered around what life as a museum curator is like.
The curators spoke about education, experience and the willingness to get dirty. “You’re gonna have to clean bathrooms, even when you have a masters degree,” Fox said. He insisted that at industrial heritage museums, there is always some way to get your hands dirty.
Speaking to the museums themselves, Fox and Beates had much cleaner things to tell the attendees. When asked how long it can take to put together an exhibit, Drake museum’s Beates replied, “A lifetime.” While some exhibits can be put together rather quickly when the information is already compiled, to collect the right artifacts and do the correct research, an exhibit can take years … sometimes longer.
Both Fox and Beates, however, couldn’t stop saying how much they love their jobs. “I’d probably be doing this for free as a volunteer anyway,” said Fox, when asked about the challenges of museum curation. “I’m glad that I can do this and still get paid.”
Both curators admitted to collecting items at their own museums and their homes, much to the ire of their spouses. Fox collects historical military pieces, while Beates used to collect woven coverlets.
Both curators were also asked about the purpose and mission of their respective museums. As industrial heritage museums, they have the job of educating people on the past, present and future of there respective industries.
Fox wanted it to be known that his museum is “about more than just cutting down trees.” He told attendees that the Lumber Museum explores sustainable forestry efforts and the early history of forest conservation in Pennsylvania.
Beates said that her museum is currently planning on opening up an exhibit in the main lobby about the modern oil industry.
Should this new exhibit should become under siege from a zombie apocolypse, Beates said, “The one thing I’d grab is me.” Beates then answered the question seriously saying she’d save Colonel Drake’s papers. More practically, Fox said that he would grab James Campbell’s journal, and one of the many historic axes to fight off the flesh eaters.
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