The Basic Info
Age, occupation, where do you live
27, Museum Educator and Exhibition Evaluator, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
How did you get involved with the American Museum of Natural History and what exactly does your job entail?
I moved to NYC from San Francisco on September 11, 2001 with no job, no apartment, and all my possessions in the back of a Uhaul. So, I started volunteering at the Museum until I could land on my feet. After several teaching jobs, working at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and finishing my M.S. I got picked up teaching in the Science and Nature Program and evaluating exhibitions for the Exhibition Department at AMNH. What does my job entail? Well, when I'm not getting pooped on by a Blue Tongued Skink or chasing after geckos, I usually teach astrophysics or about marsupials, really all things natural and historical. In exhibition, I am fortunate enough to participate in some of the planning of exhibitions and try to determine how to improve them for our visitors.
What is the weirdest story behind a certain exhibit/diorama and which is your favorite? Are there any secret/underrated exhibits?
Wow. This is a tough question. And, I'm not sure that I'm allowed to tell you these things, as much of what I do in exhibition is top secret. But, I think my favorite "diorama" is the Dzanga-Sangha rainforest in the Hall of Biodiversity. The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life is pretty great too. I love the media components in that Hall, particularly the underwater footage. Underrated exhibit....probably the Hall of New York State. It's outdated but wonderful for it.
Are the student groups that visit the museum difficult to control or are they typically well behaved? Any climbing on the dinosaurs, intentionally trying to get lost, etc?
No, the kids are really great. My favorite comment by a child occured when we were studying the various parts of an insect: head, thorax, abdomen. When asked to recall these parts, one four year old screamed, "Head, thorax, private parts!"
Are kids jaded, from all their play-station playing and computers, when they come in? Or are they excited?
No, they are very excited. They are especially excited by our astrophysics curriculum. They are all so full of wonder, which is refreshing and rewarding.
What is your favorite thing about working there? Do you ever get lost?
My favorite thing about working at the Museum is the people. We throw the best Christmas parties ever! When else could you hang out with ichthyologists, entomologists, and artists in the same room? I get lost all the time. I walk about 8 miles just to get from my desk to the cafeteria...and there are many distractions along the way.
When you're walking around the museum during the down time, do you ever feel like there are things watching you? Are they?!?
Probably the ghosts of Presidents past. The polar bears are a bit scary.
What is/was your funniest experience with an exhibit at the museum?
Gosh there are so many. Kids say the darndest things. I was giving a tour to one group of kids when a student stopped me at the Komodo dragons and asked, "Did God make these?" I explained that some people felt that way, but that when the dragons came to the Museum, they were dead and we stuffed them. So in a way, the Museum made them.
Since you're recently engaged, is it possible to get married under the whale?
Actually, yes, but I can't mix business with pleasure that much!
What are your favorite museums besides the MNH and why?
PS 1 is one of my most favorite museums in NYC. The work is so innovative and there is so much potential for growth there. Other museums I love: The Australian Museum of Sydney, The Farmers Museum of Cooperstown, NY; and the Mary Buie Museum of Oxford, Mississippi (they have the largest collection of dressed fleas in the world!).
What was it like growing up in New York City, moving to Oregon, and then coming back? Did you know you would return? And was the time away a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle.
It was really hard to move to Oregon when I was 13. The rain and all-girls Catholic school combined to make for some very unhappy teenage years. New York City is the best city in the world. I knew I'd be back eventually. It's hard to imagine living any where else now.
Some questions about NYC:
Favorite subway line
I hate the MTA right now. If they raise fares again after what they've done with the L and C...I don't know what I'll do.
Favorite NYC politician
Marianna Koval of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. Check them out! They're doing good things for this city!
Best/worst Brooklyn gentrification trend
Best: BYOB eateries
Worst: That old Williamsburg residents can't afford to eat in their neighborhoods.
Dogs, cats or babies
Dogs. For sure.