I'm A Museum Person

I’m A Museum Person: Jennie Carvill

Beth Shalom Holocaust Center by Whistling in the Dark via Flickr.

Beth Shalom Holocaust Center by Whistling in the Dark via Flickr.

My name is Jennie Carvill, and I’m a Museum Person.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a blog (www.MuseumsandStuff.tumblr.com) which I began to try and keep myself in contact with the museums community back home in the UK but has broadened my horizons much further than I first imagined! I started off studying archaeology and then did a masters degree in museum studies. I am currently writing my PhD about museums in Austria. My favourite museums are history museums, especially those with have a difficult story to tell.

Why do museums matter to you?
I believe that museums can make a different to individual lives and communities and society as a whole. I love that museums can be a driving force in reexamining certain periods or attitudes towards history/art/science etc and empowering groups. No two museums are the same, so you you always know you are in for something new when you step into a new museum. Museum studies has also taught me to enjoy even ‘bad’ museums – what makes them boring/inaccessible/whatever?

What is your favorite museum memory?

When I was writing my undergraduate dissertation I visited the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Newark. I had already visiting two other Holocaust exhibition in order to write about the events were represented in a British context. After seeing the exhibition, listening to a child survivor of the Holocaust and listening to the questions posed by the schoolchildren, we were shown something about the Rwandan genocide and then about the ongoing situation in Sudan. I was really angry that I hadn’t known anything about it and at the end of the video I heard some of the other school children expressing surprise that something like this was still happening, in their lifetime. I think it was this experience that showed me the potential that museums have and has led me to want to work in the field of social inclusion and attempt to ‘harness the power of history’.

What museum would you love to visit?

I would love to visit the Ellis Island Museum in New York.

Ellis Island Museum by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr.
Ellis Island Museum by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr.

What is your dream museum job?

I would love to work in a city history museum or something like like that, developing exhibitions and programming in conjunction with marginalised groups and working to make museums representative of as many people as is humanly possible. Enabling people to have a say in how their stories and histories are told.

When you think of the perfect exhibit, what is in it?
The perfect exhibition is multi-faceted. I should be able to have some flexibility about how much I read and how much I experience. I should learn something new, something so interesting that it comes up a few times in conversation over the next week or so. 

What is the most random item you have bought from a museum gift shop?
I went through a phase of kind of collecting packs of playing cards. Some of my favourite museum-bought ones are a pack with a different Shakespearean insult on each and another with a different, bland grey DDR building on.

Photo by stevendepolo via Flickr.
Photo by stevendepolo via Flickr.

You may have heard of the Month at the Museum contest recently held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. What museum would you move into for a month if you could?
The Imperial War Museum in Lambeth. They have great exhibitions and loads to do. They also have a cinema where they show old propaganda films and documentaries, I could sit in their for hours. And at night, I would wait until everyone goes home and then climb on the tanks…

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Thanks to Jennie for sharing her experiences. If you’re interested in participating in the “I’m A Museum Person” series, send us an email at editor@museumist.com, and we’ll get your story up on the site.

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