Skip to content

Have you ever considered how your skillset and experiences could translate into heritage or museum work?

Everyone who works in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives & Museums) sector has a unique career pathway. However, with the ongoing incredible financial pressures on this industry, and seeing fellow organizations we know and love in Victoria recently closing, we recognize that it can be difficult to see yourself beginning a heritage or museum career.

There is no blueprint for a career, but in this #MeetMMBC series of blog posts, staff at the Maritime Museum of BC want to share how they got into their field of museum work, and what industries, skills, and contacts helped them along the way.

What is your name and what do you do? 

My name is Jules Moses-Coats (she/they) and I’m the Collections Coordinator. 

What was your first museum role?

My first museum role was as a Collections Intern here at The Maritime Museum of BC.

Did you find any degree or diploma programs useful for museum work?

Absolutely. I have a BA in History, which has given me a toolset that I use often, especially the coursework I did on BC.  From broader skillsets like researching (be it online or physical, library or archive) to more specific tools like knowing how to navigate publicly available 19th Century census data, my degree has helped me access the stories behind a lot of collection items. In terms of more soft skills, my degree also familiarized me with a lot of the ethics involved with the preservation and curation of history.

Have you worked outside the GLAM sector, and has that contributed to your museum work? 

I have – I was a legal assistant for two years, and while my daily responsibilities were outside the world of GLAM, it was very much an information management position. We had so many cases on shelves that it looked like a small library, and with documents constantly coming in and going out, we had to have each file up to date both digitally and physically. I worked in litigation, which demanded attention to detail, high standard of communication, and coordination with other parties to meet strict court deadlines.  All of this helps me in collections – whether it’s retrieving/returning objects, keeping detailed and accurate catalogue records, or communicating/coordinating with external parties. My position also gave me some more in-depth tech skills, which is always an asset. 

Have you completed co-op or intern terms of work? Were they paid or unpaid?

I did a paid six-month Young Canada Works internship here at The Maritime Museum of BC.

In the GLAM sector, what has been your breakdown of full-time vs. part-time or casual work, and permanent vs. temporary contract work?

I was full-time during my internship on a temporary six-month contract. I do have other GLAM experience – I was an Auxiliary Circulation Assistant with the public library for nearly 2 years. As the job title states, I was auxiliary – my hours fluctuated based on demand. On average I worked 20-25 hours a week between all the different branches, but did have the occasional week or two where I had full-time work. It was a permanent contract though, and there were avenues to obtain a regular full-time position. 

Have you been mentored?

I would say so! Heather Feeney, who’s the Collections and Exhibits Manager here at MMBC has been a remarkable mentor to me during my time as intern. She has offered me so much invaluable insight on how to make it in the museum world and has single-handedly shown me the ropes of collections work (both figuratively and literally – we’ve got some pretty cool sections of line in our collection!). The whole team at MMBC has been incredibly supportive and insightful, especially during our professional development meetings and collaboration on digital content.  

During my time at the library, I had a few supervisors and more senior coworkers who always had my back and gave me invaluable insight on both the landscape of library work, and the importance and potential GLAM work has in community building.  

Why do you do museum and heritage work?

Firstly, I have a deep personal interest in history, especially where broader events and themes intersect with personal lives and physical objects.  Collections work is done exactly in that sweet spot. The world is full of stories, and it’s an honour to be able to contribute to making the past more accessible and alive.  

Secondly, I’m very passionate about how our understanding of history shapes our present and future. While the world is full of stories, not all of them have been treated equally, and combined, these stories shape the identity of a community. I think it’s important that this combination of stories is inclusive and representative of everyone within that community. 

Do you have any advice for your future colleagues in the GLAM sector?

While I don’t have as much experience as many of my other colleagues here, I do have a fair bit of experience applying and interviewing for positions. Postings can be sparse, and for larger organizations things can move quite slowly. If you’re coming straight of school I recommend finding more readily available work while you search for GLAM positions. Experience, even if it’s tangential, is super valuable. Volunteering is another great way of gathering relevant experience. Also, and this goes for any kind of interview, but familiarize yourself with the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, and Result), it’s super helpful, especially if you are applying to larger organizations. 

It’s easy to get discouraged, but don’t be afraid of applying to the postings that feel on the edge of your comfort zone! Who knows, your combination of experience could be enough to get you in the door, and as with any sector, you will learn a lot on the job.