Life After the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa

Katie Stringer in one of her more subdued moments

Katie Stringer was a Graduate Assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum during her M.A. Program at the University of Memphis.  Below, she talks a bit about the importance of her GA experience to her studies and museum career today.

by Katie Stringer

As a former graduate student and intern, I can honestly say that my time at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa was one of my best stints as a graduate student in Memphis and of my entire museums career.  I started as an intern in the summer of 2009, I later accepted a position as a graduate assistant there, and then continued the summer after my graduation as a temporary employee.

When I left Memphis to start the next chapter of my life as a PhD student in Public History and Museum Studies at Middle Tennessee State University, I left behind this great museum and took with me many awesome memories, great experiences, and incredible lessons. After a year of hard work at the museum, I felt as though I had accomplished something.  Some of you who work in museums may not often get to experience that feeling.  Chucalissa is definitely moving in the a very good direction and I feel like I was very lucky to be a part of the Chucalissa community and family.

In addition to general daily museum operations, I spent most of my time at the museum working on educational programming using artifacts with no known provenience and working to improve teacher information packets.   I definitely benefited from these experiences, and I like to think that the museum did as well.  Museum education has become the focus of my dissertation and many of my best lessons in museum ed were learned at Chucalissa.  The opportunity to develop, test, and present new programs is a skill I haven’t had the chance to hone so openly at other venues I have worked at.

As an intern from the museum studies program at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa in the summer 2009, I expressed interest in working with the collections in the museum’s repository. I inventoried boxes that are from various archaeological sites in the Mid-South area, specifically Mississippi, so that we could return those boxes to the state of their provenance where museums and repositories in the state will better utilize the artifacts. I also catalogued and sorted boxes of artifacts that previous owners had kept in disrepair. The artifacts had no provenance or organization, and I was responsible for coming up with a way to use the items as an educational tool. This project carried over into my time as a graduate assistant at Chucalissa. Eventually, I developed an educational program that utilizes the artifacts in an instructive way.

Other abilities that I was able to develop with a degree of freedom included digital, technological, and media skills.  There was also a fair amount of time spent promoting the museum with videos, such as the one about our musical instruments that Sam and I improvised on a cold, slow, January day, as well as the Relic Run documentary.

As I move forward in my own museums career and finish my dissertation at MTSU, I find myself often referencing experiences, stories, memories, and lessons learned at Chucalissa.  My fellow students and professors have heard all about the wonderful educational programs, the great staff, and innovative ideas that happen at the museum all the time.  Chucalissa played a major role in my life in Memphis, and my experiences there continue to inspire me and keep me going when working in the museums field seems too tough.

Thanks, Chuc and staff, for all the great times!

Visit my blog for more information about my time at Chucalissa and University of Memphis, and to find out what I’m up to these days: http://katiestringer.wordpress.com

Contact Katie at: mks2x@mtmail.mtsu.edu

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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One Response to Life After the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa

  1. Great post! I understand what you mean about the feeling of accomplishment. It’s so easy to spin our wheels working in cultural institutions. Being able to accomplish something with real long-lasting effects is definitely a boon for you as a professional and for the institution. You’re a museums rock star!

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