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A Abstract of the Previous Presidents’ Scholar Reception on Careers in Museums and Collections

Society for Historic Archaeology 2021 Digital Convention
By Julia A. King, Patricia Samford, and Mark Warner

In the course of the Society for Historic Archaeology’s (SHA) 2021 Digital Convention, the SHA held six “digital” Previous Presidents’ Scholar Receptions over a number of days. Throughout these classes, which had been every an hour lengthy, college students had been capable of interact SHA’s leaders in dialog and discover a variety of profession paths in historic archaeology.

The next is a abstract of the discussions from the session on Museums and Collections. The panelists for this session had been Julia A. King, Patricia Samford, and Mark Warner.

  • Julia A. King is professor and chair of anthropology at St. Mary’s Faculty of Maryland. King obtained her B.A. diploma from William and Mary, her M.A. diploma from Florida State College, and her Ph.D. from the College of Pennsylvania. She was the founding director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory and has written about archaeological collections administration. She is a previous president of the Society for Historic Archaeology and served as the primary Professional Member in archaeology on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. In 2018, King obtained the J. C. Harrington Award from the SHA.
  • Patricia Samford is the director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory in St. Leonard, Maryland. She obtained her B.A. and M.A. levels from the Faculty of William and Mary and her Ph.D. from the College of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She has served on the board of the SHA and is at the moment the SHA Publication
  • Mark Warner is a professor of anthropology on the College of Idaho, He obtained his B.A. from Beloit Faculty (WI), M.A.A. from the College of Maryland, and Ph.D. from the College of Virginia. He has led excavations in lots of elements of the US and is the fast previous President of the Society for Historic Archaeology. 

In early December 2020, SHA despatched college students who registered for the 2021 Digital Convention a survey with an inventory of questions on careers in historic archaeology. College students had been requested to pick the profession sort(s) of their alternative after which choose the highest three questions they want the session panelists to handle when it comes to these profession paths. College students had been additionally requested so as to add their very own questions for the session panelists.

In the course of the first half of the session on careers in Museums and Collections, the panelists mentioned and responded to the next survey questions:  

What kinds of work expertise and non-academic coaching are wanted for a profession in museums and collections (this was the most well-liked query)?

The panelists really helpful that college students ought to hunt down internships and volunteer alternatives that may give them the kinds of expertise that they have to be aggressive within the job market. Internships (each paid and unpaid) are often preferable to volunteering, with the intern being afforded a extra rounded expertise within the subject together with some obligations. The internship will typically embody a particular mission that could possibly be changed into a future publication or convention paper. The kinds of experiences you’ll be able to count on in a curation internship would come with work with collections accessioning, monitoring collections by using databases, digital media administration, conducting conservation assessments, and funds administration. Don’t be afraid to ask your internship mentor for various alternatives past simply washing and labeling artifacts—take into consideration gaining abilities akin to photographing or illustrating artifacts or studying Photoshop.

How ought to a rising skilled construction their resume or CV to pursue a profession in museums and collections? 

The panelists be aware that you will need to consider your profession targets when structuring a resume.  If you wish to transfer into collections as a occupation, spotlight that have and ensure it doesn’t get misplaced in any archaeological fieldwork expertise you may need (though having fieldwork expertise is a crucial ability to notice). Be particular in your resume concerning the kinds of collections expertise you’ve. Make sure to point out when you have volunteer expertise.

Your cowl letter can also be vital when making use of for a place. Take the time to do some on-line analysis—determine who the letter ought to be addressed to. If that individual has a Ph.D., tackle them as Dr. Do analysis concerning the establishment so as to describe the way you would possibly contribute to this system for which you might be making use of. And you should definitely learn your cowl letter and resume rigorously for spelling errors and grammar. Don’t simply depend on the spell examine perform in Phrase—it misses lots![i]

What kinds of programs are wanted for a profession in collections? 

The panelists agreed that any class that gives you with hands-on collections expertise is a should. At St. Mary’s Faculty of Maryland, Julie King has designed a practicum class throughout which college students work with orphaned collections[ii]—cataloging and analyzing the artifacts and making ready a report on the findings. However you additionally want to know why we do archaeology, so taking technique and idea lessons can also be vital. Hunt down lessons that provide you with expertise in understanding and figuring out the fabric tradition of the area the place you want to work. You might also need to hunt down unbiased examine lessons, the place you’ll be able to work carefully with a professor to design and tailor your personal mission to realize a selected set of abilities or information.  Whereas typically not supplied at undergraduate establishments, any lessons in collections administration and preventive conservation are very helpful.

What are the job market prospects for museums and collections establishments? How will impacts of the pandemic (e.g., employees being terminated and museums closing) have an effect on profession prospects long run?

The panelists level out that the job market in collections is definitely higher and extra secure than it’s for the educational sector. There’ll all the time be a necessity for folks to handle collections, particularly since rules relating to cultural useful resource administration (CRM) are unlikely to be modified considerably, and CRM work generates collections, which have to be managed. 

Panelists urged college students to return to the Collections and Curation Committee assembly that’s held at every SHA convention and to attend convention classes sponsored by this committee. It is a good technique to meet and community with professionals on the curation facet of archaeology.  For networking alternatives exterior of SHA, strive native historic societies and native museums. When you won’t be working particularly with archaeological collections, you’ll nonetheless acquire expertise with collections. Regional archaeological societies or avocational teams are additionally one other supply for gaining expertise and networking.

Even in case you actually need to be a subject archaeologist, it’s essential that you just perceive what’s concerned with collections and collections administration. When you find yourself answerable for a subject mission, you must suppose by the ramifications of what you’re digging up out of the bottom and the probability that it must be – or definitely ought to be – curated in perpetuity. You will want to work with collections managers and decide sampling methods for supplies forward of time. You will want to consider what your conservation wants is perhaps and determine these into the price of your excavation so that each one of those challenges don’t fall on the collections supervisor after the gathering has been turned over to the curation facility. It’s essential to have an understanding of what collections managers do so as to be a greater subject archaeologist for the sake of these collections transferring ahead into the long run.

Questions Posed throughout the Session

Panelists then invited session attendees to submit further questions within the Chat Field. One viewers member requested whether or not alternatives for collections administration and curation are totally different all through the nation. Mark Warner famous that, sadly, not as a lot consideration is given to historic collections within the western states, with some archaeologists actively avoiding historic websites within the subject.

One other query was how working with Native American Tribes matches into curation and collections administration. The purpose was made by the panelists that there are virtually 600 Tribes in the US and that every Tribe can have its personal concepts about how its members need to work with archaeologists (or not) and the way they need collections points addressed. Archaeologists might want to work with every Tribe individually to determine collections administration insurance policies. Archaeologists should acknowledge that Tribes might have very totally different concepts and ideas about collections remedy, together with the very thought of a set, and that archaeological agendas, whereas definitely vital to archaeologists, might not be shared by Tribes. It is usually all the time vital to acknowledge that federally acknowledged Tribes are sovereign nations – they aren’t merely descendant communities.

An viewers member wished to know if cold-calling museums and establishments was a suitable follow, on condition that the pandemic had severely restricted the variety of job postings. Panelists famous that it by no means hurts to achieve out to folks to make your self identified regardless, even when it’s a chilly contact. One suggestion was to contact establishments to see if volunteer alternatives can be found, since getting that foot within the door can typically result in paying positions. The Small Museum Affiliation ( was recommended as an accessible group with good contacts.  Additionally recommended for particular repository contacts is the Society for Historic Archaeology Repository Dashboard (

A number of different sources embody:

A really affordably priced ($29.95) quantity entitled Utilizing and Curating Archaeological Collections edited by S. Terry Childs and Mark S. Warner (2019) has been revealed by the SAA Press.  Observe the hyperlink beneath for buying particulars.

A Closing Word from Terry Klein and Terry Majewski:

We had been more than happy with the outcomes of this and the opposite profession classes. Exchanges between the panelists and attendees had been vigorous and really informative, and several other attendees acknowledged their thanks on the finish of every session. We’re wanting ahead to the following Previous Presidents’ Scholar Reception in Philadelphia! Will probably be nice to lastly see everybody in individual!

When you have any questions on this and the opposite profession classes, or future Previous Presidents’ Scholar Receptions, please contact Mr. Terry Klein ( or Dr. Teresita Majewski (

[i] Living proof:  a former classmate ready a report for work that included the phrase “public” within the title.  She ran spell examine and ended up with a title that included the phrase “pubic.”  Don’t make an identical mistake!

[ii] An orphaned assortment is a gaggle of objects and/or related data with unclear possession which were deserted in a repository, museum, or different facility, akin to a laboratory in a CRM agency. An preliminary glossary of collections-related terminology compiled by the then members of the Archaeological Collections Consortium was revealed within the “Opinion and Debate” part of the SHA Publication in 2015 (48[4]:4–6, Winter 2015), and this time period was one which they outlined.




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