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Collections manager Jessica Knight and executive director Mikayla Larrow process a potential addition to the collection of the Museum at the Bighorns.

One of the most common questions I am asked is how I got into the museum profession. How does someone go about getting a job in a museum? Thankfully, there are several different paths you can take. My path to the profession is one of the more common options.

In college, I majored in anthropology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, because I love the study of human culture. The summer before my senior year of college, my academic advisor arranged for me to intern at the Witte Museum in San Antonio.

Within two weeks, I was hooked.

The idea of preserving historical artifacts and interpreting them excited me. Museums also seemed to be a natural combination of my anthropology major and history minor. I asked my museum supervisor at the Witte how I could pursue museums as a career. She suggested that I go to graduate school at Texas Tech University for museum science, which I did.

I trained as a museum generalists, meaning I learned about museum collections, administration, education and exhibits. Museum collections ended up being the area I enjoyed the most, so those are the positions I pursued after graduation. Since then I have worked for history museums in Texas and Wyoming.

I have been the collections manager for the Museum at the Bighorns for more than a year now. What does a collections manager do in a museum? Usually I say, “I work with the stuff." However, my job is much more complicated than that.

Once an object becomes part of a museum's permanent collection, we have the responsibility to take care of it. I document, photograph, scan, clean and store objects according to museum best practices. Each item I work with has a story. I can imagine Annie Loucks playing the piano we have on the exhibit floor, or Elsa Spear Byron taking photos with her cameras. These items are a tangible link to the Sheridan that was. Preserving those stories is an honor.

One of the things I enjoy most about working in museums is that I don’t do the exact same thing every day. I work on exhibits, help with public events and welcome visitors at the front desk, in addition to my work with the museum collection. Wearing many hats from day to day is pretty standard for a museum of our size. The Museum at the Bighorns gives me the chance daily to interpret history for today’s audiences and preserve Sheridan County’s stories for future generations.

Come see our current exhibits. The Museum at the Bighorns is currently open Tuesday through Saturday from 1-5 p.m.

Jessica Knight is collections manager at Museum at the Bighorns.

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