Gaining Mastery in the Museum Field

By: Tim Hecox

This past September I had the honor of attending the 2011 Western Museums Association Annual Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii as both a Wanda Chin Scholarship recipient and session presenter.

Having been awarded this scholarship offered me the first time experience of presenting at a national conference and to take another step in establishing myself as a leader in the museum industry.   The conference session in which I co-presented, "The Charm and Challenge of Gaining Mastery in the Field," suited for emerging professionals’, managers and directors gave me the experience of sharing my own story of career advancement.  Along with two other emerging museum professionals as co-presenters and a Museum Studies Graduate Professor as facilitator, we offered perspectives on workplace successes and challenges and strategies of our own for gaining mastery in the museum field.

After each panelist shared their story and perspectives, audience participants were asked to discuss amongst themselves career issues relative to workplace culture, professional development, and diversity awareness.  To help lead and guide the discussion, handouts on professional development and mentor/mentee recommendations were given to each participant.  The session ended with an engaging conversation between the audience and session panelists on how the museum sector can incorporate best practices in retaining and advancing emerging museum professionals.

This opportunity was especially relevant and time appropriate for me as I had recently advanced in my own career at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, OR just three months previous to the 2011 WMA Annual Meeting in Hawaii.   Moving from my previous position as an Outreach Educator within the Education Department to a new position as an Exhibit Developer within the Research & Development Department gave me an opportunity to voice what challenges and successes I encountered in my career advancement.

Along with the chance to present, attending the annual meeting also offered me professional development opportunities relevant to my new position at OMSI.   In my current role as Exhibit Developer, I work on the development of a National Science Foundation-funded, five-year collaborative project between OMSI, the Indigenous Education Institute (IEI), the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, and the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve titled Generations of Knowledge: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Environmental Science.  Together with these partners, OMSI will create two traveling exhibitions, a website and associated programming on how Native American traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and western science are both valuable and complementary for understanding the natural world.

By WMA co-hosting the 2011 annual meeting with the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, & Museums, Hawai’i Museums Association and Pacific islands Museum Association I received a vast amount of information and resources to use in the development of this intricate and culturally sensitive project.  From attending the opening ceremony to conference sessions like Exhibit Critique: The Bishop Museum’s Hawaiian Hall and Cultural Heritage Tourism and the Role of the Indigenous Museum, I was able to learn firsthand from indigenous people and representatives from their museums.

By receiving a Wanda Chin Scholarship and having the opportunity to attend this meeting, I feel more confident as both a museum professional and in my new role as an Exhibit developer at OMSI.  I would like to thank the Wanda Chin Scholarship Committee and everyone else who made the 2011 Western Museums Association Annual Meeting a great success.

Tim Hecox is an Exhibit Developer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, OR.  He has a BS degree in Natural Resources Planning and Interpretation from Humboldt State University and several years of experience working for the National Park Service as an Interpretive Ranger Naturalist in Yosemite National Park.  Hecox has worked for OMSI for nearly four years and is also actively involved with American Association of Museums (AAM), Association of Science—Technology Centers (ASTC) and National Association for Interpretation (NAI).

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