Museum Panelists Bring Their Experiences to MC

by Alexa Schmidt, A&E Editor

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Center for Career Development held an informational panel discussion for those interested in working in the museum field. The panel included three alumni from Manhattan College and an alum from Iona College, all of whom were able to discuss their experiences and how they arrived at their current position.

Alexandra Revans was a communication major at MC, with a concentration in public relations. During her time here, she took a study abroad trip to London.

“And I think at that point, something kind of turned in my brain, like I had always been super interested in the arts,” Revans said. “And I just wanted to learn more about museums as businesses, I guess, how they worked, what responsibility they had in society. And I came back to New York and applied for an internship in the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was awesome. I was there in the fall of my senior year and it turned into a fellowship. And that’s how I was introduced to like my current manager at the museum, where I got the job, essentially.”

Revans describes her job’s function as a “mini marketing firm,” for all the various departments in the museum. She works closely with the store retail team, the visitor experience department, as well as the curatorial team.

Panelists are employed at museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, the American Folk Art Museum and the Guggenheim Museum pictured above.

Christopher Gorman is the director of communication and marketing at the American Folk Art Museum. He worked at HarperCollins right out of college, and then got hired as a security guard at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Turned out that I fell in love with the place and applied for a job in the museum’s design department, which I got,” Gorman said. “And I was assistant to the head of the design department. So I worked with the museum’s graphic designers, architects, and curators on building exhibitions and generally presenting the Mets brand to a global audience”

Gorman moved to audience development in public affairs, was recruited to become director of marketing and branding at the New York Public Library, and started working at the American Folk Art Museum about four months ago.

Juliana Jaeger graduated MC in 2017, and works as the manager for volunteer services at the New York Botanical Gardens, located in the Bronx. Her specific role is to manage the 64 tour guides by coordinating their schedules and training them. She also coordinates with the exhibition department for the new exhibits.

“I basically always knew I wanted to work in a museum,” Jaeger said. “So I came here and I majored in history. And then, while I was here, I interned at a National Historic Site in Mount Vernon. And then so I graduated here in 2017, and then I graduated from NYU with my masters in museum studies in 2019.”

Pedro Garcia’s love of history has led him to work in the museum industry for 15 years. He currently serves as the manager for staff development for training and ESOL at the Tenement Museum, and trains educators to make sure that they are able to lead the tours for the public.

“We tell so many interesting stories, so we try to provide historical context to the stories,” Garcia said. “So for me it is a very, very rich experience to be able to give a different perspective to a story that we might think differently from movies or novels. So as we continue to develop our programs, and become fascinating every time we do something new. So that’s what really got me into there. And that’s what keeps me going there as well.”

All of the panelists emphasized the more experience, the better. During their time in college, they all held internships, studied abroad, volunteered, and one even wrote for The Quadrangle.

“I would just say intern as much as you can, and then get those letters of recommendation, because that’s how you

Screen Shot 2020-03-04 at 12.08.16 PM
The Guggenheim Museum was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is located on 5th Ave. along Central Park on the  upper East Side.

get jobs,” Jaeger said.

Gorman attributes his career success to his education in the school of liberal arts.

“Working in a museum is all about, especially when you’re working with curators, thinking critically about history about things that we’re wrestling with today,” Gorman said. “So the ability to be curious, but to think critically about what you’re told what you’re reading, what history has to teach us. That was essential, I think, to what I’m able to do now at the museum.”

The museum industry is not limited just to those who are interested in art and history. There are jobs for conservation, engineering, graphic design, mathematics, curatorial education, computer science, horticulturalism, and more. The bigger the museum, the more jobs that are available.

“What I say to people a lot is that there are jobs that always have openings and museums, but they are not necessarily the jobs that might seem the most obvious set of candidates,” Gorman said. “If you’re holding out for your dream job, you might be waiting a while, but if you’re willing to come in and do things like you know, stand in the galleries, and protect the artwork or sweep the floors, or do some of the entry level jobs that may not be the job that you want to do the rest of your life but that’s a job in that Museum, then there probably can be something for you.”

“The good news is that museums have to be open minded about how they hire and who they hire,” Garcia said. “I’d like to think that there will continue to be a trend where there are people who aim to study and focus their attention when they’re in school on the museum field and end up working in something. And then there are others who come to it another way.”

Revans likes to describe museums as “spaces of education,” or places where people are constantly creating something and sharing it with others.

“I quite like the idea of thinking about the public as users, because visitors come they visit and they leave,” Gorman said. “But I like to think that museums can be resources, the way that libraries can be.”

There is more to a museum than what meets the eye, and those who are behind the scenes get the ultimate experience of sharing their work with others.