Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Leslie is a talented historian and public speaker with an IMPRESSIVE resume and range of knowledge. Her newest endeavor will be to assist MuseumX on a historical museum project, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have her. Check out her introduction below!
When I wake up, I don’t always know who I’ll be that day.
Sometimes it’s Amelia Earhart. Or Clara Barton. Sometimes I’m Jackie Kennedy [in the photo above, for example].
Assuming different identities is part of what I do as a history performer. It involves lots of research, shopping for vintage goodies, and wearing fabulous gowns. But most importantly it involves creating an experience that is both fun and informative for an audience.
Now, bear with me. But acting bears a lot of similarity to working in a museum.
Like a great interpretation, a great museum exhibition should be both entertaining and educational. It should connect with what the audience already knows and understands. It needs to convey information, of course, but it should also be fun to experience and easy to understand. When a visitor leaves a great museum exhibition, they should be inspired to think about the topic more, maybe even want to learn more after the experience ends.
I began working in museums in 2002 because I love this kind of learning – stimulating, self-directed, and intimately connected to everyday life. After receiving degrees in English (Stanford University) and History (Northwestern University), I pursued a Museum Studies Master’s Degree from the University of Leicester in Great Britain. In the ten years I’ve been working in museums, I have developed exhibitions and lectured on a wide range of historical and cultural topics. A sampling of my projects and thematic exhibitions includes A Great War Enthusiasm: Evanston and the Civil War (Evanston History Center), Steelroots (The Morton Arboretum), Vanishing Acts: Trees Under Threat (The Morton Arboretum), Jens Jensen: Landscapes for People (Sterling Morton Library), and Sweet Home Chicago: A History of the Candy Capital of America (Elmhurst Historical Museum). I have led concept development, conducted research, written exhibition labels, and developed interpretation for museums ranging from an outdoor arboretum serving 800,000 visitors annually to a historic house serving 14,000 visitors each year. I have served on the board of the Illinois Association of Museums and the advisory board of the Illinois State Historical Society.
When you work in the museum world, you never know what kind of fascinating, challenging project will pop up next. This time around, I’ll be working with Museum Explorer to research and write interpretive labels for an exhibition exploring Elmhurst’s history and culture through the voices of people who have lived there. Who knows what fascinating themes and intriguing characters will emerge from the museum’s impressive collection of journals, newspapers, photographs, maps, and other treasures. But whatever does emerge, I know I’ll be striving to make something meaningful and memorable. And I’ll always try to leave them wanting more.