Museum Jobs Spotlight: Stephanie Johnson
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The name of my museum is… National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum
My name is… Stephanie Johnson
My job title is… Curator
This job title means that I mainly work on…
Everything! We’re a very small staff so I get the opportunity to help out with a little bit of everything! My main job functions are exhibits and collections management. That means I play the parts of Registrar, Curator, Collections Manager, Curator, and Education Curator.
Give us a quick overview of your department/museum.
We have about 20,000 objects in our collections including, minerals, historical mining objects, mining equipment, archives, photographs, and a library. Unlike most museums, we have a fair amount of our collections out on display throughout our 25,000 square feet of exhibit space. In addition to our permanent exhibits, we also of a rotating gallery with a new temporary exhibition about every four months. So far those exhibitions have included mining related photography.
What inspires you about your museum’s mission?
The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum’s mission is to “tell the story about mining, its people, and its importance to the American public.” When I first started here, I didn’t know much about mining. The stories of some of the first prospectors and miners out west are inspiring on their own and there is so much mining history intertwined with the general history of our country. I am inspired to explore different perspectives and experiences from people within the mining world, as those perspectives change depending on the mineral being mined. I am also inspired to tell the story of women in mining as well!
What advice would you give to the aspiring museum professional?
I would say, be adventurous, have a sense of humor, do a lot of internships (don’t be afraid to jump in and help wherever you can at those internships and give everything your best effort), make connections, and if you decide to go to graduate school, use as many of the resources offered as possible. If you REALLY want to be a museum professional, then potential museum employers will see that through your projects and references!
How did you find your way into the museum industry?
I found my way into the museum world after undergrad. I volunteered in collections at two local museums while I had a part time job for almost two years, not sure what I wanted to do next. I liked it so much that I applied for a paid internship in Colorado (where I’d never been before, I’m from Oregon), and then decided to go to Graduate school that fall when the internship was over. Grad school was a fabulous experience and I was able to do an internship at a museum in Vancouver, B.C., which led to presenting at a conference, writing my Master’s research on visitor photography policy, another internship, and eventually, the job I have now!
What is your earliest memory of being in a museum?
I think one of my earliest memories of a museum visit was when I was in elementary school and we visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). They had (still do?) this exhibit about earthquakes and included an earthquake simulator: you step up into a living room space that is decked out with a fish tank full of water (for full-slosh effect) and things that fall over; you sit down on a couch, Carol King’s “I Felt the Earth Move Under My Feet” starts playing and it’s like a magnitude 6 earthquake rocking the whole living room. You get to feel what that would be like to sit in your living room and feel an earthquake. I think that is my earliest memory of museums and probably one that has stuck with me because it was so immersive and cool.