Meet the Board: Roberta Carothers

Roberta Carothers, Chief of Collection Management, National Museum of the United States Air Force

Tell us a little bit about where you work and what you do there?

I am the Chief of Collection Management at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF) in Dayton, Ohio. I worked as a curator and project manager before taking on a management position. The NMUSAF oversees over 133,000 artifacts in its collection, with approximately 50,000 items on loan to other Department of Defense organizations and museums, civilian museums, as well cities, municipalities, and veterans organizations.

What is your earliest museum memory?

When I was ten years old we went to The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. I was so amazed that people thought to save all these pieces of American history. I couldn’t stop thinking how neat it would be to work there.

What led you to go into the museum field?

In undergrad, I was pre-law.  However, after three years of studying history, I decided to do a semester abroad and an internship at the Australian War Memorial. I did not get paid and I worked 40 hours most weeks. I couldn’t get enough. I felt so honored to preserve the history of men and women who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their country. I decided to go to grad school after undergrad.  I got an internship at the National Museum of the USAF.  I was fortunate they were able to hire me on in Collection Management once I completed my degree.

What is your workspace like?

My office is on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in a WWII building complex.  These buildings were not meant to be permanent structures, but here we are 75 plus years later.

What item in your office can you not live without?

My computer.  Everything we do relies on technology these days.

Describe your favorite work memory. What was your best day like?

I was the Project Manager for the museum’s 4th Building addition. It was a $40.8M building that involved numerous organizations.  I was one of the main interfaces for the museum, trying to make it as artifact and user friendly for today and future generations. The day we opened it to the public and watching all those people who had traveled from other states and countries to see the collections housed in it was quite a moving experience.

What does your dream museum look like?

My dream museum would have state-of-the-art collections storage.  It would staffed adequately with professionals from related fields. It would be inviting and inclusive to the public.  The content and exhibits would be thought provoking and immersive. The staff would strive to consistently bring in new audiences and remain relevant.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Fight the good fight.

What are you currently reading?

“Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn and “City of Thorns” by Ben Rawlence.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am a huge Game of Thrones fan – books and show – so if you ever want to talk Thrones, I am your person!