I work at the Western Development Museum Curatorial Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as a Collections Assistant, under the direction of the Collections Curator. The bulk of my job is cataloguing recent acquisitions, so it's a continual work in progress. I really love getting to work with the artifacts and their stories. The Western Development Museum is a provincial social history museum and features four exhibit locations across Saskatchewan: Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Saskatoon, and Yorkton. Where I work, the Curatorial Centre, is a 5th building located in Saskatoon. It provides centralised artifact storage, administration, conservation services, exhibit production, program coordination, and many other forms of support for the four museums. We have a large and diverse collection of approximately 80,000 artifacts. The biggest artifacts are a grain elevator, a railroad station, several houses, airplanes, and steam locomotives. Among the smallest artifacts are thimbles and fine needlework. I work closely with the other Collections Assistants, the Curator, Conservation staff and Museum Technicians to care for the collection.
I graduated from CRMP in June 2014 as part of the first cohort in the Graduate Professional Certificate in Cultural Heritage Studies program under the Heritage Planning option.
I start my day in the artifact holding area finding the next artifact that needs cataloguing and then doing some research to find out more about it. While I do most of my research online, I never underestimate the power of our internal research library. Amongst many other treasures, our library has a fantastic collection of mail order catalogues from Eaton's Headquarters - endlessly useful when determining dates with a largely 20th century collection. I also try to contact the donor to clarify and add extra information to the file. After cataloguing and photographing are complete, I consult with the Conservation Department regarding any treatments or special considerations for storage before putting the artifact into storage. While that's my usual routine, you never know what a day might bring. I might also help with prospective acquisitions, public inquiries, inventories at another WDM location, a bit of text research and writing, pulling/packing/putting away artifacts for/from an exhibit, and summer student and volunteer training and supervision.
CRMP has helped me see my organization and the heritage sector more holistically. It has given me a greater appreciation and understanding of heritage. While I work in a museum, I chose the heritage planning option over the museum studies option. While the coursework and focus of the certificate I completed was on built heritage, I found that the content was directly applicable to Collections work in a museum. Determining significance, long term conservation considerations and plans, issues of relevance and sustainability, connecting with communities and individuals, knowing and abiding by laws and ethics surrounding the physical remains of the past - these are all a daily part of my and my coworkers’ jobs.
I can’t really choose between them. As someone working full time in a heritage job while I took the program, I appreciated having the option of distance education. Each course in the program was made more meaningful, as I was able to take the frameworks, concepts, and skills I was learning each week and directly apply them to my work, and how I think about that work, the very next day.
I cannot stress enough that if you're a distance education student, participate regularly in the online forum discussions. I learned so much from my fellow students sharing their thoughts and experiences, whether it was their personal background, professional experience, or an interesting question. It really enriched the course content and learning experience.
One of my favourite assignments from CH572 was creating a heritage conservation plan for a historic home undergoing change in ownership from public to private. It really brought together the skills we had been building and challenged me to create a plan that anyone could walk in from the street and use, rather than a document solely for heritage professionals.