Meet an EMP: Kara Gaffken

[Snapshot_20120228_13.JPG]Years in Museum Field: 1

Degrees/Certificates: Bachelor’s in Anthropology with a Minor in History from the State University of New York College at Oneonta, currently working toward a Master’s Degree in Museum Education at the University of the Arts

Current Position: Docent at the Museum of Elfreth’s Alley, Evaluator at the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum, Student at UArts

Previous Museum Experience: Docent, Visitor Center Greeter, and Assistant Archaeologist and Camp Organizer for Youth Archaeology Summer Camp at Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, NY

Other Relevant Work Experience: Teaching Assistant in upper division course (Anthropology 312: Exhibiting Cultures in Museums) at SUNY Oneonta

Did a mentor play a significant role in your career development? Lisa Stahl, Professor of Anthropology at SUNY Oneonta, sparked my interest in museum studies and inspired me to pursue a career in the field. She is truly the sweetest woman in the world.

Helen Shannon, Professor of Museum Education at the University of the Arts, is one of the most inspirational career driven women I have ever met. I have never had a professor who has pushed me so hard to succeed, and I will be forever grateful to the role she has played in the development of my career as I pursue my Master’s Degree.

How does your current position fit into your career plan? My internship at Elfreth’s Alley is part of a requirement in maintaining my Master’s Degree in Museum Education from the University of the Arts, which I plan to have completed by the end of December 2013.

What museum organizations do you belong to? American Alliance of Museums and Philly EMP

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began in this profession? You won’t be making millions… or anywhere close. So love what you do, or don’t do it at all.

What do you enjoy most about your position? The best part about being an educator is seeing people’s reactions when you teach them something new and interesting. I like to think that by teaching one visitor, I’m also teaching their friends, family, and anyone else they may share their memories and experience with after they leave the museum. Information is contagious.

What is it that keeps you engaged at work? What keeps me engaged, is other people’s engagement. As long as there are people interested and willing to learn, I will be ready and willing to teach.

Kara Gaffken received her undergraduate degree from the State University of New York College at Oneonta in Anthropology, with a Minor in History. Soon after beginning her studies, Kara got caught up in the romantic idea of archaeology; the whole Indiana Jones thing and the spectacle of it all. However, it wasn’t until the summer before her senior year that Kara actually went on a dig.

“It was so interesting!” Kara recalls.  “I learned so much and had an amazing experience! I was also dirty, sweaty, sunburned, and exhausted for 4 weeks straight. (And the lab experience didn’t exactly spark my interest…) I realized that archaeology was an awesome field, but it was not for me.”

After this realization, Kara decided to change direction. With a love for history and teaching others, but not being a big fan of the formal education system, museums seemed like the perfect fit.

Fun Fact: As an undergrad, Kara spent 4 weeks in Poland excavating a mortuary site from the 17th century with other students from all over the world.


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