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You received your MA in Museum Studies from JHU. What prompted you to choose museum studies, and JHU in particular? As a child, I always wanted to grow up to be either an Egyptologist or a Veterinarian. Over time I started thinking that Veterinarian would be the better option, and it was certainly easier to find schools dedicated to animal medicine than it was to find ones for Egyptology. So, after high school I joined the U.S. Army where I was an Animal Care Specialist (91T) for three years, and after that I was a civilian veterinary technician for 2 more years. Eventually though I realized that the kid in me still really wanted to work with artifacts of some type and working in a museum seemed the natural choice. So, I opted to use my military education benefits to go back to school. I chose JHU primarily for its flexibility. My husband was in the military at the time so we moved a lot and I needed to be able to take my degree plan with me. I actually sort of stumbled across the JHU program when I was looking for a museum studies program, but something told me right from the start that this was the program for me. The instructors are all highly educated with years of hands-on experience and the fact that I can work from anywhere with an Internet connection is a perfect combination.
What prompted you to go beyond the MA to obtain the Graduate Certificate in Digital Curation? During the M.A. program I focused my courses on collections management, and a few of those courses discussed digital preservation which I found very interesting. I was amazed at how much some cultural institutions were doing to preserve not just the physical objects in their collections, but also all the digital files that I hadn’t realized were being collected as well. I quickly realized that in today’s technology driven world it is only a matter of time before everyone in an institution will need training in digital asset management. When JHU announced the Certificate in Digital Curation I jumped at the chance to not only learn more about collections management, but to also be able to delve even further into the unique needs of digital collections.
Please describe your internship for the digital curation certificate and also your research for the research requirement. I have been so fortunate to be able to perform my internship for the Certificate program at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Special Collections Department. The Special Collections Department is currently in the planning phases for preserving their born-digital collections (born-digital meaning data that was created in a digital format as opposed to something analog that was recreated in a digital format, or digitized). My internship has aimed to help in this planning phase. I have inventoried their physical collections looking for removable media objects such as compact discs, USB thumb sticks, and old 8-inch, 5.25-inch, and 3.5-inch floppy disks, just to name a few. Next I will be using two new software programs, BitCurator and Archivematica, to create disk images of the files on the removable media. A disk image is a copy of the files stored on an object, but it captures every little piece of information attached to the files too such as creation dates, change logs, and even deleted files. I found this whole process to be so fascinating that when it came time to choose a topic for the Research Writing component of the Certificate program I decided I wanted to focus on digital forensics, which is a criminal science process that served as the inspiration for BitCurator and Archivematica. Both of these programs seek to utilize disk imaging in a way that allows cultural institutions to better preserve digital collections, but it is a relatively new topic in the world of museums and archives. The thought of exploring a topic that has not yet been fully analyzed is exciting and I can’t wait to see what my research turns up!
What experiences have been the most memorable for both programs? My most memorable experiences in the M.A. Program was getting to work on so many unique group projects. For example, in one course we were broken into groups and tasked with creating a proposal for a program that would allow libraries, archives, and museums to work together to provide something new and useful to the community. My team put together a proposal for a food truck rally in Chicago which expanded upon the success of the actual Food Truck Rally that already happened in the city by bringing in local cultural institutions to teach about the history of food trucks in Chicago. By the end of the project we were all a bit sad that our proposal was only a class project and not a real event. As for the Certificate program, I’m one of the only people in the program right now because it is new, so all my courses are independent study at the moment. That said, I’ve been able to meet some amazing people in the field since I’ve begun my internship and paper research. Plus I’ve had to interview a couple of other museum professionals for a third course I’m taking. Honestly, the people I’ve met in and out of the classroom as a result of my time in the M.A. and Certificate programs has been the best part of both programs.
What do you plan to do once you have finished the program? Thanks to the networking I have done during the Certificate program I already have possible volunteer opportunities set up at both UTSA and the Witte Museum here in San Antonio. My plan is to learn as much as I can through these volunteer experiences and work towards seeking permanent employment. My ultimate goal is to find work as a Collections Manager responsible for digital collections, and maybe even work on continued research of digital forensics with the hope of helping to move the cultural institution industry forward.
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