Back in May of 2013, Allison Smith was featured in a Meet an EMP post here on phillyemp.com. A lot can happen in a year and a half, so we decided to catch up with Allison and see what she’s been up to.
Have there been any big changes in your career since your Meet An EMP feature was posted?
Well for starters, I have a new last name! I was married in 2013 and now go by my married name, Allison Krisch (née Smith). Since we last spoke, I have been promoted to a new position at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. I am currently the Manager of Science and Community Programs. With my new position I am involved in many grants that target underserved communities while promoting science learning among students and families. I am also the lead on a project called Science Now that reacts to science in the news within a 6-48 hour time frame. I absolutely love my current position! It is everything I have ever wanted from a museum job, as it allows me to work directly with our local communities. It also helps that I have fantastic colleagues at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University that make coming to work every day such a joy.
I have also been involved with the Museum Council of Philadelphia for the past year. In late 2013, I joined the programming committee, which helps to plan and organize programs for our members and prospective members. This past June (2014), I was elected to the board of Museum Council, where I currently serve as the Recording Secretary for the board.
I am definitely busy, but I have nothing to complain about. Between work and Museum Council, I feel lucky to be able to collaborate with so many awesome Philadelphia museum professionals. This past year has been one of the best in my nearly decade long career.
Do you have any cool stories to share with us from the past year?
The past year has been one of the most hectic years of my professional life. After beginning a new position (at the same museum, thankfully) in May, I was thrust headfirst into a very busy and exciting schedule. One of the coolest things I have done so far was participate in the Summer Design Institute for the Intersections grant – a NSF/ASTC funded grant that focuses on the intersections between science and literacy. In Philadelphia, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is partnered with the Philadelphia Writing Project. The Summer Design Institute was held in Denver, Colorado in June with the intent that we would develop the majority of our project during the retreat. As if that wasn’t cool enough, we arrived in Denver to meet 4 other teams from across that country that were a part of our cohort. These teams were all museum/National Writing Project partnerships, and each sent 4 members from their respective cities: Bangor, Maine; Boise, Idaho; Fort Collins, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina.
This was one of the most intense, creative, chaotic, uplifting, demanding, and challenging weeks of my professional career. Imagine traveling halfway across the country to participate in a weeklong charette with 20 new colleagues that you have just met. It’s exhilarating. I learned so much from everyone involved in the Summer Design Institute. In our field, it is so infrequent to be awarded a grant first, before being asked to fully develop your program concept. It was one of the best experiences of my career. The Philadelphia team has created a project that I am immensely proud of and excited to work with. While it’s too soon to share all of the details, just know that it involves science, literacy, and lots of fun.
Is there anything exciting coming up (within your department)?
There are always exciting things happening in the Education Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University! I’m really excited for our new exhibit, Chocolate: The Exhibition, which opens on October 11, 2014. Chocolate is one of my favorite foods/snacks and I look forward to having an exhibit on site dedicated to it. Plus, many of my colleagues have been working on exciting programming around the exhibit. Come visit and see for yourself!
Do you have any advice to share with people who are entering the museum field?
Never give up. I know how cliché that sounds, but this can be a hard field to find footing in. Like any other career field, museums require a lot of dedication and hard work. But they can also require a lot of sacrifice – such as moving to a brand new city all alone to pursue a position in a field you love, or being willing to take a museum job that will provide you with new skills and experience, but barely pays enough for you to get by. Don’t be afraid to work a couple part-time museum jobs if you’re just starting out. A lot of us have had to do the same. Those are the kinds of jobs that really allow you to see what the field is like and help you to make the decision of whether or not to embrace this field as your own.
Also, volunteer! Find another museum, cultural institution, or even a professional group to volunteer with. These provide great ways to network with other professionals in the community, and allow you to give back. With how transient our field can be, you never know if you could end up applying for work at one of those institutions in the future, or if you might end up collaborating with other institutions as part of an assignment. Don’t be afraid to get out there and network! Philadelphia is a rich with professional organizations. Look for events run by the Museum Council of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Emerging Museum Professionals, among others.