23 January 2018




Welcome to the 2018 edition of Alumni Check-In, everyone! I'm excited to be connecting with alumni far and wide and providing you all with a glimpse into the wonderfully diverse opportunities that await graduates of the Master of Museum Studies program.

To begin the year, our first check-in is with recent alumnus and creator of this column, Kate Seally!

Kate graduated from the MMSt program in 2017, and previously with a BA (Honours) in History from the University of Ottawa in 2014. She currently works at the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) as a Young Canada Works (YCW) Program Officer. On behalf of Canadian Heritage, the CMA distributes YCW funding to qualified Canadian institutions for hiring summer students and interns; in her role, Kate's duties include screening funding applications, receiving and approving (or rejecting) forms, sending funding decisions, contracts and payments, and acting as the main point of contact for employers with questions about the YCW program.

Kate Seally, '17 MMSt Graduate, currently works as a Young Canada Works Program Officer for the Canadian Museums Association. Here, Kate takes a selfie during a recent work trip to Montréal! Photo courtesy of Kate Seally.

In her past experience, Kate has had the opportunity to work at a variety of museums. She got her first taste in high school, working as a summer student at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. Before starting the MMSt program, Kate worked at Billings Estate National Historic Site, Ottawa, where she worked on, and confirmed her love of, program planning and delivery. Recognizing her passion for front-of-house/programming activities, Kate made the conscious decision to branch out and take a behind-the-scenes internship at the Bytown Museum in Ottawa for the MMSt course. During her time there, Kate worked on the museum's 100th anniversary exhibition, Bytown Museum: A Century of Community, completing research, label writing and collections work.  

Kate kindly answered the following interview questions for us here at Musings:

Q: What is your favourite memory from your time in the MMSt program?

A: This might sound bad but I think my favourite memories from the program are the times I spent hanging out in the Inforum, or on the fifth floor getting to know my classmates and complaining about the workload! But seriously, I think the best part about the program was meeting and learning from museum professionals – whether through the lectures organized by the faculty, the classes taught by current museum professionals, or through all the networking opportunities and events.

Kate says, "Don’t forget to a) Occasionally do things that scare you and b) Always present at the iSchool student conference! For me that killed two birds with one stone." Here, she shows off her conference nametag. Photo courtesy of Kate Seally.

Q: What course or subject matter has been of most use to you in your current role?

A: I don’t think I can pin any one down exactly! I’d say the skills I use every day are ones I honed and practiced in all my classes; effective oral and written communication. A lot of my job consists of writing effective professional emails as well as lots of talking on the phone. I hope one day I can use some of the other things I learned (especially the program planning and interpretation knowledge!) in my job, but for now I’m quite happy.

Q: What advice would you give to museum professionals entering the sector today?

A: Experience, experience, experience! A lot of the job postings I’m seeing are asking for at least 3 years of experience, which for an entry-level person is impossible! If you can supplement your time in the program with applicable work experiences (summer jobs, internships) as well as volunteer opportunities (at the ROM while at school, etc.) I think you can go a long way towards making yourself more attractive to employers. 

I’d also say that you should have a hard think about what you need out of a job before you even consider applying for it. During my undergrad co-op work terms, I really got to try lots of different things (customer service, event planning, research, writing) and decide which I loved and which I didn’t. Now when I look at a job posting, I think about how good the fit will be for me. BUT I will add – sometimes you need to make it to the interview stage (when you can hear more about the job) before deciding about the fit.

Kate worked at the Billings Estate National Historic Site in Ottawa before starting the MMSt program, and she continued to work there occasionally during her time in the program. Now back in Ottawa, Kate picks up occasional shifts when she can! Photo courtesy of Kate Seally.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?

A: Honestly, I love all the interaction with my clients! I would be so bored if I had a job where I sat in a quiet corner with nobody to talk to. At CMA I get to work with a great bunch of 20-somethings as well as frequently interact with all my clients. Young Canada Works (like any grant) can be hard to navigate and I find it very satisfying to answer peoples’ questions and help them solve their problems. If I do end up working in a museum (and not “museum adjacent” as I like to say I am now!) I would definitely want to work somewhere I had a lot of opportunities to interact with others, whether co-workers or visitors.

Many thanks to Kate for taking the time to speak about her experiences and work. I wish her all the best in her future endeavours!

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