By Jackie Huss
When I arrived on Hope’s campus in the fall of 2001 the thought of becoming a history major had never entered my mind. Like many people, I discovered new things about myself during my freshman year and knew I needed to find a new focus. My parents encouraged me to look back on my high school work and volunteer experiences for inspiration for what I would like to do with the rest of my life. The thing that immediately came to mind was my time spent as a volunteer tour guide at the Hackley and Hume Historic Site in my hometown of Muskegon, Michigan. I realized working in the museum field was something I found enjoyable and fascinating as a volunteer, so making it my career path seemed like a no-brainer.
At the beginning of my sophomore year I declared as a history major and started my journey. Although Hope doesn’t have a Museum Studies program, Professors Marc Baer and Albert Bell helped me mold my own learning experience through internships. The first semester of my junior year, I interned at the Holland Historical Trust Museum under the Curator of Education. I didn’t think I wanted to work with elementary-aged children, but this internship started me on a path of sharing Michigan history with the public in easy and accessible ways, which has become my passion.
The spring semester of my junior year, I took my Seminar class with Dr. Fred Johnson, which was an amazing experience. The topic was the Civil War and Dr. Johnson allowed me to focus my final paper on the Underground Railroad in Michigan, since I had such a passion for Michigan history. I conducted research on campus, at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, and through a series of “field trips” to various locations of historical significance to the Underground Railroad. The paper I wrote has continued to serve as a base of knowledge in my professional career. For example, I have used the paper and the materials I cited in writing the paper as a resource for writing exhibit label text and speaking about the Underground Railroad to various groups in West Michigan.
I applied for a competitive Historical Resources internship at The Henry Ford in Dearborn and was selected as one of seven interns from over 30 applicants. I was placed at their Benson Ford Research Center for the summer between my junior and senior years. I learned a lot about research and working for a large history institution. That internship confirmed that my passion was not just in doing the research, but in sharing it with the public.
My final internship in the fall of 2004 was a turning point in my life. I knew I would graduate a semester early, so I applied for an internship back where it all began, the Lakeshore Museum Center (the parent museum to the Hackley and Hume Historic Site).
My internship with the LMC allowed me to work in all departments of the museum as well as attend my first professional museum conference.
When a position as the Assistant Curator of Education was available I knew that museum education and programming was the direction I wanted to go. I applied, was interviewed just a few weeks before my December graduation, was hired the day before Thanksgiving, and started my career immediately following graduation.
Over the last 11 years, I have grown in my position and am now the Program Manager for our main Museum Center. In addition to creating and overseeing programming for schools, families, and adults, I also have the opportunity to serve as project manager on various exhibits. The largest was a two year complete remodel of our Fire Barn Museum, during which I relied heavily on the research skills I gained while a student at Hope College.
I can honestly say that without the guidance and opportunities I had as a student at Hope, I would not be in a career that is ever-evolving and rewarding!