Meet an EMP: Megan MacNeill

Years in Museum Field: 7

Degrees/Certificates: MFA Museum Exhibition Planning and Design from University of the Arts, 
BFA Art and Design from Alfred University

Current Occupation: Visitor Services Assistant at Chemical Heritage Foundation

Previous Museum Experience: Please Touch Museum, Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Fosdick-Nelson Gallery, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, National Museum of Dance

Other Relevant Work Experience: I worked for two summers at camp for children with life-threatening illnesses as an arts and crafts counselor. It was the most amazing experience, if you have a week you can volunteer and hang out in the Adirondacks with the coolest kids you will ever meet. It was co-founded by Paul Newman as a place for kids to just be kids. Working with them and seeing their needs inspired my MFA thesis in exhibition design for children and their families with autism.

Did a mentor play a significant role in your career development? Early on there were two people who really shaped my museum philosophies. Though he was more a sports writer than a museum professional, Mike Kane at the Museum of Racing was quite influential. He really knew the ins and outs of the horse racing profession and inspired me to be passionate and invested in any genre of museum. Sharon McConnell, strives for perfection in both her own art and her direction of the Fosdick-Nelson Gallery. Working with her was a collaborative process, but it ultimately showed me how to work effectively and creatively with a client and elevated my design aesthetic.

How does your current position fit into your career plan? I’ve always been interested in the education side of museums and being a VSA allows me to work on that from public programs to school tours. Long-term I hope to become an exhibition developer and working in education has allowed me to imagine and create new ways of translating information to our visitors.

What museum organizations do you belong to? Philly EMP, American Alliance of Museums, Museum Council of Philadelphia

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began in this profession? I wish I had made more contacts earlier on. I kick myself for some of those missed opportunities.

What do you enjoy most about your position? I love working with kids and giving tours and developing activities has been so much fun. I like the challenge of taking a subject as daunting as chemistry and finding new and interesting ways to make it relatable. The highlight of my job so far was when one kid told me I had ‘swag.’

What is it that keeps you engaged at work? The added benefit of working in a small museum is that you get to work in many departments. I’ve been able to help organize a small conference, design promotional material, and create pop-up exhibits.

Megan got into the museum world during undergrad when her freshman roommate was finding internships and Megan felt left out of the loop. Since Megan had been a ballet dancer earlier in life, she figured the Dance Museum would be a good fit. There were five interns and three full-time staff. Megan learned a great deal about working in a small museum from that experience. When Megan got back to school that fall she took a course on exhibit design and fell in love. Megan’s favorite museums outside of Philly include MASS MoCA, The Corning Museum of Glass, and The Hyde Collection.

Fun Fact: Megan played an integral role in designing the train play area at Please Touch Museum’s Centennial Exploration exhibit

 

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