Museum Job Spotlight: Michelle Italia-Walker
We’re profiling interesting jobs in the museum field to show the range of responsibilities and opportunities available. Have an awesome museum job you want to share? Fill out this form and we will be in touch!
The name of my museum is… Berger Hearing Aid Museum at Kent State University
My name is… Michelle Italia-Walker, M.L.I.S
My job title is… Museum Consultant/Recorder
This job title means that I mainly work on…
Collections and Recording Objects
Give us a quick overview of your department/museum.
I am independent contractor overseeing the collection of hearing aids as it is being moved from its current location to the University Library during renovations to the current building it is housed in. I am working with several students in the Museum Studies program who are gaining hands-on experience with a museum collection. I am helping them gain experience and skills that will help them as they study in the field.
What inspires you about your museum’s mission?
It allows hands-on experience for students interested in gaining new skills in the museum field. The current course for graduate students is 100% online and this is a great way to help them get the experience they need.
What advice would you give to the aspiring museum professional?
VOLUNTEER! I was fortunate to be able to find many volunteer and class opportunities to learn about museums, design exhibits, work on installations, and collections as a volunteer. It translates to real world experience and you will have a solid knowledge base when you enter the workforce.
How did you find your way into the museum industry?
I have a BA in History. Everyone kept asking me what grade I was going to teach. Teach? What? I did not want to teach. Nothing wrong with teaching, It just wasn’t where my head was at the time. I wanted to work in a museum. I was sitting in a class one night and a professor came in to talk about the new Museum Studies program at Kent State that was in the School of Library and Information Science. I felt like I heard the angels singing. I could get a Master’s degree and work in a museum…AWESOME! So, I entered the program and have loved every minute of working and studying in the field.
Best advice you ever received from a museum professional:
Find what you love about museums and work there. There are many jobs in the museum field and I was encouraged to find what I loved most.
What specific skills enable you to succeed in your job?
I pay attention to detail. I think that is critical. I am a good researcher. I am a great communicator and work well on a team whether leading or supporting.
What’s your favorite object or piece of art in your museum and why?
A pair of ladies eyeglasses from the 1940’s what have been fitted with hearing aids. They are utilitarian, but they are beautiful. The frames are very typical of the time with their cat eye shape and jeweled corners. They remind me of my grandmother.
What is your earliest memory of being in a museum?
We were poor growing up. My mom was raising us alone, but she always made time to take us to the local Carnegie Library and to the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History. I loved going to the Hall of Architecture. My eyes still well up with tears when I go. I didn’t know then at age 5 or 6 that I was having a numinous experience that would cement my love for museums, but I knew it was special.
The next early memory I have is when my grandparents took us to California and we visited Hearst Castle in San Simeon. I was blown away and wanted to move in there so that I could see everything.”
What is a story that most people don’t know about your museum or its collection?
The Berger Hearing Aid Museum holds over 3500 hearing aids in the collection and is the only one of its kind that is open to research in the field of Hearing and Speech.
How does your museum function within your community?
It is very niche. The local community does not know about it. Many students on campus are unaware as well. That is about to change!