Profiles: Allison Smith

The Greater Philadelphia region is rich with great cultural institutions, each with a stellar staff of museum professionals. This feature is designed to use an interview to help us introduce you to some of the city and region’s best and brightest in the business.

Allison Smith

Years in Museum Field: 7

Degrees/Certificates: B.S. in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Pittsburgh with a certificate in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. M.A. in Museum Education from The University of the Arts

Current Position: Coordinator, Women In Natural Sciences (WINS) Program at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Previous Museum Experience: I’ve worked at a variety of museums in both Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, including the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Franklin Institute, the National Constitution Center, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Other Relevant Work Experience: I love working with outreach programs and during undergrad I was lucky enough to work with a summer camp program, Camp Success, at the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh. Camp Success provided a summer program for special needs children from the greater Pittsburgh area. Working with this type of outreach program definitely inspired me to follow the direction my career has taken in recent years.

Did a mentor play a significant role in your career development? I will be forever indebted to two of my mentors from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Marie (Viggiano) Pocasangre and Sue McJunkin. Marie offered me constant support when I first started at Carnegie in 2006 and gave me the push to pursue a career in museum education when I was still unsure of what I wanted to do. Sue has been a constant friend and mentor since 2010, when I worked as the Pre-Camp Coordinator/Camp Assistant for Carnegie’s Summer Camp. Both of these women have shown me what it takes to be successful in our field. They both embody the passion for their work and selfless that is necessary to get ahead in our line of work. I have learned so much from both of them over the years. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t met either of these women.

How does your current position fit into your career plan? As the Coordinator of the WINS Program I work with 60+ high school girls from the city of Philadelphia. Our program embodies the best part of a museum outreach program and allows me to work with students from Philadelphia who may never have had this kind of museum exposure without WINS. In my career, I hope to always be engaged with the local community in some way. Working with WINS provides me with a direct connection to the city of Philadelphia. There’s nothing like working with local students to make you more aware of and proud of the city that you’ve come to call home.

What museum organizations do you belong to? American Alliance of Museums, Philly Emerging Museum Professionals

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you began this profession? How transient the field can be. I’ve seen many colleagues move across the country in pursuit of the ideal job. I never thought I’d end up in a field that could potentially deposit me halfway around the world. I wouldn’t change it though!

What do you enjoy most about your position? Traveling in the field. The impact of environmental science lessons become much more meaningful when the students can experience them firsthand.

What is it that keeps you engaged at work? The young women who are a part of WINS. Working with high school aged students is challenging at times, but at the end of each day I know that I am in a field that I love, teaching students about science in a way that is fun and engaging.

Allison has  been fascinated with museums and public history since she was younger. In 2006, as a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, Allison began a work-study position at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History teaching lessons about dinosaurs to school-aged students. By the time Allison left Carnegie, she had been given the opportunity to work closely with overnight programs, home-school classes, summer camp, and outreach programs. Allison’s favorite museums outside of Philadelphia include the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, American Museum of Natural History in NYC, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC in Vancouver, and the Heinz History Center, and the  Mattress Factory, both in Pittsburgh.

Fun Fact: Allison plays on the National Constitution Center softball team although she no longer works for the NCC.


One response to “Profiles: Allison Smith

  1. Pingback: A Chat With Allison Krisch | Philadelphia Emerging Museum Professionals·

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