Choosing to Pursue Uncertainty
Blog with reflections from the California Association of Museums Conference in Palm Springs
By: Tessa Tweet, 2018 CAM Fellow
When I started my first year of college, I told my advisor that I wanted to go into museum education. I liked teaching but didn’t want to be in a classroom. I wanted to communicate ideas and concepts outside of the strict structure of academia, and had always felt at home in museums, from galleries to scientific dioramas. By the start of my senior year in college, after working summers in a museum education department and a few years into my anthropology degree, I knew wholeheartedly that museum education was not for me. My advisor asked why I had the change of heart when only a few semesters before I had been eager to apply to museum studies programs. I told her that I wanted a job where I would be financially secure. I did not want to go to school for a master's degree only to better compete for a part-time, low-paying side job as a barista. Even in institutions devoted to informal education, the education departments seem low in the museum pecking order. And if I wanted to capture my love of communication in an industry where I would be constantly challenged, why not work in tech and pay off my student loans? It all came down to museum education not being practical. Yes, museum education seemed like a perfect fit in some ways, but my pragmatic side shuddered.
Now, almost two years out of college, where am I? I am the School Programs Assistant at The Huntington Library. I attended the CAM Conference in Palm Springs in February, and felt at once invigorated and nervous. It seems clear to me now that my love for museum education is stronger than my doubts. The community at CAM was strong, from the former Getty Multicultural Internship alums that I connected with to the museum professionals who offered to look over my resume. There was a sense of community because you have to love museum work, since it comes hand-in-hand with sacrifices.
I am still early in my career. I still babysit on the side for a couple that pays well and has cute kids. I hope that the connections I made at CAM mean the uncertainty that steered me away from museums will be uncalled for. Right now, as an emerging professional with less than five years in the museum education field, my excitement outweighs the negatives that I had rattled off to my college advisor a few years ago. I am grateful I decided to follow my interests and my love of informal education. It is the people in the museum field who support each other that make this career worth it – even if it’s not the most pragmatic choice.
About the Author/CAM Fellow
Tessa Tweet is the School Programs Assistant at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. She graduated from Pitzer College, where she majored in anthropology and focused on Brazilian culture and museum practices. In 2016 she was a Getty Multicultural Intern at The Getty Foundation. She lives in Pasadena and on weekends, you can find her at the Norton Simon Museum or at any number of used bookstores.