OMA 2023 Student Scholarship Blog -Katharine Young

The Ohio Museums Association is committed to connecting and empowering museum professionals at all stages of their career — including our student and emerging museum professionals!

For our 2023 OMA Annual Conference, OMA was very proud to offer students seeking careers in the museum field, scholarships to attend OMA 2023 in Newark.

With their unique experience as students heading into the museum field, we wanted to hear from our scholarship recipients about the OMA conference from their perspective.

Below, scholarship winner Katharine Young shares her 2023 conference experience.  Katharine is a recent graduate from Case Western Reserve University - class of 2023, with a masther's degree in art history and museum studies. With a specialization in collections management and registration, Kathatrine has a wide range of institutional experience, including art museums, conservation labs, house museums, and historic cemeteries. 

First OMA Conference: A Student's Perspective

I arrived at the Cherry Valley Hotel for the OMA conference excited for the opportunity to expand my network and learn about what issues museums are discussing today. For approximately ten years, I have interned, volunteered, or worked for museums across Northeast Ohio. I specialized in art history and museum studies during my undergraduate and graduate education. The conference, Museums, Relationships, & Trust, coincided with the final weeks of my master’s degree at Case Western Reserve University. I was a fortunate recipient of a student scholarship to attend the OMA annual conference. The goal of this blog is to reflect on my personal experience in the hope it might encourage other future students to participate.

Before any conference, my advisor used to say that the best thing they can do for me is introduce then ignore. She meant that it would do me no good to stand around with people I already know instead of meeting someone new. In this situation, I took that advice to the extreme by attending OMA alone and without any idea of who might be there. It turns out this was the best thing I could do for myself. Once I arrived, I did find some familiar faces but many more unfamiliar ones. I interacted with directors, developers, collections managers, archivists, vendors, and more. Even if I do not see most of the people I met until the next OMA conference, the value of these in person connections is evident. This was the perfect opportunity to practice relevant networking skills.

One of the highlights of the conference was the Sunday evening museum tours. I think many of us enter this field because of our desire to be lifelong learners. Spending time exploring museums with likeminded individuals added to the fun. While I unfortunately did not have the chance to participate in the Saturday tours, the Sunday roster featured trips to the Dawes Arboretum and The Works. As an avid gardener myself, the driving tour of the vast arboretum property was my favorite part. I was also impressed with their wealth of online resources about plants that I plan to use back home. This was also a unique opportunity to think about the requirements to care for a living collection.

When we returned to the main conference venue, it was time for the awards dinner. I’ve made a mental note to remember to bring a nicer outfit for the evening event next time. Before the conference, I did not know how many awards OMA distributes and liked the tiered approach based on institutional budgets. I was particularly moved by the words shared by the individuals from the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve for their exhibition, “W/O Limits: Art, Chronic Illness, & Disability.” It was remarkable to hear about all the amazing work Ohio museums have done in the last year. I felt the community aspect of the organization as many deserving people received the recognition of their peers.

The heart of the conference was its schedule of sessions. A good conference is clear when it’s difficult to pick which sessions to attend, and this OMA event fits the bill. I was particularly interested in the discussions surrounding NAGPRA and collaborating with Tribal Nations based on principles of respect. This was the focus in the plenary speech by Stacey Halfmoon, Executive Director of Cultural and Historic Preservation, Shawnee Tribe, and the session led by Nekole Alligood, NAGPRA specialist for the Ohio History Connection. Both emphasized the human-centered approach to their work that model the ideal for any collections steward working in this field.

After OMA’s 2023 conference, Museums, Relationships, & Trust, I am hopeful that this is only the beginning of many future attendances. Beyond networking, I experienced personal growth and learned more about the field I hope to dedicate my career to. I am grateful that OMA chose to award me a scholarship to participate in the conference without financial burden. I cannot recommend enough, especially to emerging professionals, the value of participating in OMA.



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