Wednesday, 18 June 2014

MY TIME AT THE CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM

INTERNSHIP CHECK-IN

BY: MEAGHAN DALBY

I’m actually having such a hard time believing that I’ve already been at my internship for 7 weeks! I was lucky enough to land a position at the Canadian War Museum (CWM) working for the Creative Developer, Britt Braaten. I must admit, a museum dedicated to war, would not be my first pick. I do have a degree in history, but military history is not really my jam. So why did I choose this internship, you ask? Well, at the beginning of the winter semester I looked through the list of possible choices on that website, and assistant to the Creative Developer working in the Exhibitions, Creative Development and Learning department sounded cool. (Actually I’m pretty sure those were my exact words … “That sounds cool”) It seemed like an opportunity to be creative, and do something a little outside my comfort zone. Not to mention, an opportunity to work for a federal level museum was too good to pass up! All the other positions on my list were in collections management. I must admit, when I started at the iSchool in September, I really thought that was where my heart was – caring for the objects so integral to museums. I thoroughly enjoyed Sue Maltby’s Museum Environment as well as Cara Krmpotich’s Collection’s Management. I still am very drawn to objects and artifacts, and yet, after my interview with Britt, I felt like I couldn’t pass this position up.

 
The CWM at dusk
http://www.architecture.com/RIBA/Awards/RIBAInternationalPrize/2006/Canadian/CanadianWarMusuem-Foster.aspx
As I continue at my position at the CWM, I’ve learned a lot about the kinds of things that make me excited about working in museums. I have been lucky enough to accompany my supervisor to all kinds of meetings regarding the planning of upcoming exhibitions. I’ve been able to observe a meeting with designers where the museum staff work with a third party company to create a layout for an upcoming exhibition. You would not believe (well… actually you probably all would believe) the amount of thought that goes into a floor plan. I’ve sat in on brainstorming meetings to figure out what kinds of interactive elements will be in this exhibit (and even got to contribute some ideas of my own – yay!). There are so many details of putting together a successful exhibit, and I’m getting to participate in essentially all of them!

 
Me with a poster for my upcoming event: Human LIbrary: Witnessing Conflict
What excites me about a position in Creative Development, or exhibition planning depending on where you are, is that I will get an opportunity to share a story with an audience. Help them learn something new, or experience something from a different vantage point. What challenges me about this is ensuring that the story told isn't biased, or offensive, and that the facts are presented in an appropriate way.  I'm observing how the War Museum deals with presenting difficult subject matter, and I know these are skills which will help me in the long run.  

Seeing the ideas from my co-workers brains being manifested into a real exhibition is beyond amazing. Now, I want to see my ideas in the flesh. I know I’m gushing like a 14 year old with a crush, going on and on about how this is the coolest, most amazing thing in the world, but honestly that’s how I’m feeling right now. I have a major crush on Creative Development; I just hope it likes me back!

Let me know, what do you think about Exhibition Planning/Creative Development? How are your own internships going? Do you have a crush yet?

2 comments:

  1. Meaghan this is awesome! Your passion, and "crush", shine through in your writing. It is such a pleasure to read something so full of your own excitement for learning, your own experiences, and your own critical thinking.

    One question I have: many museums do not have a unique position dedicated to "Creative Development." Would you argue that more museums should have this position? What about small versus large institutions?

    I'm having a similar experience in my internship in the Fund Development Office at Canada's National Ballet School -- I have unexpectedly developed a big crush on development and arts administration, despite my love for museums being rooted in collections work. I really hope that others are experiencing similar, positive discoveries in their internships. And, of course, I can't wait to hear about everyone's experience in September!

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    1. Thanks Lily! I'm glad I come across as excited, and not crazy. As for the Creative Development position, you're right, it's not terribly common, but as I'm learning the Canadian Museum of History Corporation (which the Canadian War Museum falls under) has recently done an overhaul of their departments and jobs. So there was a lot of shuffling around and titles of positions were changed. I feel like most larger institutions have a position that would be similar to Creative Development, but could be called Exhibition Planning, or something similar. From what I've observed at the CWM, having a Creative Developer is invaluable to the planning process, especially in a larger institution. Of course, in smaller institutions one person gets to wear many hats - and I'm sure that some aspects of a Creative Developer are included.
      The way I see it, a Creative Developer is an advocate for the visitor during the planning stages of the exhibit. S/he looks at certain things, interactive activities for example, and questions whether an audience will a) enjoy it, or b) learn something from it. If it's not inclusive, or just not a feasible idea they work it until it is. I'm sure to some extent this happens in all museums (or at least it should), but perhaps in smaller places there isn't a full job dedicated to it.
      It's really good to hear that you're enjoying your time at the National Ballet School too! It's neat to see how people's aspirations are changing because of their experiences! I also can't wait until September to hear about it all :)

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