Meet an EMP: Christine Schoonmaker

DSCN3799Years in Museum Field: 1

Degrees/Certificates: Master of Arts in History from La Salle University, Philadelphia, P.A. Specialization: History for Educators; Public History
Bachelor of Arts in History/Adolescent Education fromMarist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Certification (from Marist College):New York State Department of Education: Adolescent Education (7-12), Social Studies

Current Occupation: Educator/Visitor Services Representative at the National Liberty Museum

Previous Museum Experience: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, P.A.
(Volunteer, Founder’s Award Dinner Attendant)
Elfreth’s Alley Museum, Philadelphia, P.A.
(Volunteer, Deck the Alley Tour Greeter and Guide)

Other Relevant Work Experience:  Gwynedd-Mercy College, Philadelphia, P.A. (Adjunct History Professor, Center for Lifelong Learning)
Nyack High School, Nyack, N.Y. (Social Studies Teacher)
Sylvan Learning Center, Nanuet, N.Y. (Educational Assistant)

Did a mentor play a significant role in your career development? Throughout my time as a student and as a professional, I have been lucky enough to have a number of helpful mentors along the way. All of these individuals stand out because they have encouraged me to grow by tackling content material and/or career paths that not only interest me, but also challenge me.

How does your current position fit into your career plan? With a background in both history and education, the National Liberty Museum is the best fit for me because I am able to build upon the skills I have developed over the years rather than neglect them. I have always believed that there is not that much that separates informal education from formal education as I am still instructing individuals by asking critical thinking questions, guiding in-depth discussions, and evaluating responses. I will always have a love for the classroom, but I am hoping that my time at the National Liberty Museum will help guide me and groom me to become a full-time museum educator, taking on more responsibilities in order to see all of my ideas come to life.

What museum organizations do you belong to? Philly EMP

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began in this profession? It would have been helpful to know how competitive the museum world is. It is extremely important to be as informed and stay as relevant as possible. I learned that always being open to new experiences shows employers and even colleagues how determined you are and how willing you are to adapt to any situation, great assets in every institution.

What do you enjoy most about your position? Everyday is a new adventure! As a teacher, I was only certified to work with specific grades (which is similar to when I was an Adjunct Professor), but in my current position I am able to spend time with visitors of all ages and share my knowledge with them as well as listen to their personal stories and discoveries. It is tremendously enlightening and rewarding to instill lessons about liberty, both liberty won and lost, and watch how visitors uncover the connections between the past and the present day.

What is it that keeps you engaged at work? Although I am only part-time at the moment, I always feel included. I am a part of the development and implementation of new curriculum for tours, workshops, and programs, all of which allows me to apply the skills I have gained throughout my years as a student and as a professional of both history and education. Additionally, I am also responsible for visitor services duties and I enjoy interacting with the public on this level as well, especially coming up with creative ways to encourage them to support the museum’s mission by stepping inside.

With several family members working in education, it was not hard to believe that Christine too would follow that path. Fascinated by history as well, Christine combined the two areas together and received her B.A. in both. She found work as a Social Studies Teacher right out of undergrad and was pleased that she could bring her fresh insight to the classroom. However, Christine has always wanted to live in a historic city and took a leap of faith and moved to Philadelphia in order to complete her Masters, expanding upon her previous degree and pursing a specialization in public history. Public history opened Christine’s eyes to all that museums have to offer both their visitors and employees. Several courses provided her with the necessary information as to how museums are run and how she could help in the process due to her background. After graduation, Christine jumped back into the classroom for some time as an Adjunct History Professor, but soon began volunteering at various museums and historical societies in order to gain field experience. While Christine was applying to positions that matched her personal interests and career goals, one special institution contacted her and she knows now that the National Liberty Museum is where she was supposed to end up.

Fun Fact: Christine’s favorite museums outside of Philly are The Metropolitan Museum of Art in N.Y.C. and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.


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