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 Laura Robin and I’m the School and Public Programs Manager.
What was your first museum role?
I volunteered at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, SK in their learning department working on updating an old scavenger hunt. My first paid position was at The Royal BC Museum as a Learning Program Facilitator, which was a part-time contract position.
Did you find any degree or diploma programs useful for museum work?
For my specific field – learning – I find that I use the skills I learned from all of my post-secondary education. For programming specifically, the Master of Museum Education from the University of British Columbia introduced me to a lot of concepts I wasn’t familiar with and helped me build a lot of the relationships that I needed to be successful in finding work in a museum.
Have you worked outside the GLAM sector, and has that contributed to your museum work?
I was actually a classroom teacher for 5 years before transitioning entirely to museum work. Having that experience has helped in so many ways – I have a better idea of what teachers want when they look for museum programming, and that many years in front of a class of students made sure that I don’t get nervous during public interpretation.
Have you completed co-op or intern terms of work? Were they paid or unpaid?
I never did any museum internships, but I did a four month unpaid teaching internship as part of my Bachelor of Education degree.
In the GLAM sector, what has been your breakdown of full-time vs. part-time or casual work, and permanent vs. temporary contract work?
Without getting too long winded, I did about three years of volunteering before being offered a couple part-time contracts that I juggled for a couple years. Eventually, when full-time work became available at the Maritime Museum of BC, I began work as the School and Public Programs Manager in 2019.
Have you been mentored?
I’ve never been formally mentored, but I have had some pretty spectacular colleagues throughout my career so far.
Why do you do museum and heritage work?
I do this work because I could never be the type of person who does the same job every day. I love that this position gets to learn about marine sciences, coastal history, the practical aspects of boating, and does it while interacting with individuals from literally every age group. I very rarely have boring days, and often feel this very cool sense of mutual discovery alongside program participants when I’m facilitating.
Do you have any advice for your future colleagues in the GLAM sector?
Get involved in an organization that you’re interested in and care about, reach out to people you want to work with. The GLAM sector can be frustrating and intimidating to break into sometimes, but it’s also really exciting and rewarding work. It’s also a really diverse field, and volunteering in an area you think you’re interested in can help you discover whether that’s a good fit or not!