Flexibility and Diversity at Chucalissa

by Megan Keener

If I were to say one thing to sum up my experience working as a graduate assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, it would be diversity.  My job has taught me that flexibility is key when working in a small museum.

During my time at the C.H. Nash Museum I have been a librarian, done educational programming, been a gardener, a project coordinator, event planner, worked visitor’s services, craft maker, trail maintainer, worked at off-site booths promoting the museum, performed collections work, and much much more.  When you work with 4 full-time and 4 part-time staff, you learn to fit whatever role is needed on a daily basis.

As a librarian, I discovered that small, older libraries hold real treasures.  In the collection at the museum we have many reports on archaeological research conducted here in Memphis.  We have a book on the excavations at Lamar Terrace prior to the construction of University Housing.  There is also a book on the excavations in the area that is now Peabody Place.  Curious about Yellow Fever in Memphis?  We have several volumes on that subject too.  Our collection even includes a book on a ship wreck located off the Louisiana coast.  Needless to say my work as a librarian at the museum has opened my eyes to books I may have never seen otherwise.

School children are native species of Chucalissa.  They have been coming to the site for years and will continue to come in the future.  Chucalissa means something different to every child.  I have had children who were interested in the cultural aspect, children who were more excited about the archaeological aspect, and others who were interested in the natural environment of the site.  Every day that I’ve taught school children, I’ve learned just as much from them as they have from me.  Seeing children so excited about learning makes me feel fulfilled in a way that I never expected.

Children aren’t the only ones who amaze me at Chucalissa.  Working Visitor’s Services in the museum has allowed me to meet some very interesting people from many different places.  In one day alone, I met someone from Belgium, England, Australia, Germany, and France.  You would think these visitors were visiting in a group, but these were five different groups of people who decided to visit our Museum on the same day.  The visitors that we meet educate us about their home towns, archaeology, places they’ve visited, and much more.  Just the other day I met a couple who lived and traveled all around the world on their sailboat.  The people that you meet working within a cultural institution will amaze and surprise you, and often have interesting life stories.

The events and projects at Chucalissa are so full of life!  Planning, publicizing, and implementing the events bring out the best in all of us here at the museum.  We may get frustrated sometimes, but we always come together as a solid team to get things done.  Having such a small staff we rely heavily on one another for support and flexibility.  Be it for the Chucalissa Relic Run, Chefs and Chiefs, or Volunteer Days, our team is always up for the challenge.

Diversity and Flexibility –  two words that go hand-in-hand when working in a small institution.  I’ve learned them over the last two years as an intern and graduate assistant here at the C.H. Nash Museum, and will carry these words to any future job.

Megan Keener is a Graduate Assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.

About C.H. Nash Museum

The mission of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, a division of the University of Memphis, is to protect and interpret the Chucalissa archaeological site’s cultural and natural environments, and to provide the University Community and the Public with exceptional educational, participatory, and research opportunities on the landscape’s past and present Native American and traditional cultures.
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