An Interview with Graduate Assistant Mallory Bader

 by Rachael Bogema

The arrival of summer results in many wonderful events at Chucalissa. One bittersweet event, however, is the occasional departure of one of our Graduate Assistants. Mallory Bader served as a Graduate Assistant at Chucalissa for two years, and recently graduated with her Master of Arts in Anthropology, and her Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies. Below is a recent conversation I had with Mallory on her time here at the Museum…. 

What was your very first museum experience? The first time I remember being at a museum was the Children’s Museum of Memphis. I remember climbing the tower and shopping for groceries in their “store.”

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Mallory and Graduate Assistant Patricia Harris representing the Museum Studies Department at the University of Memphis.

Describe your position at Chucalissa. What is a typical workday like for you?   My job title as Graduate Assistant doesn’t really give any information about what I actually did.  During my two years as a graduate assistant, I worked on a variety of projects. From focus groups to school groups to exhibit design to visitor services, I’ve done it all. That to me is one of the greatest assets to being at Chucalissa. As a student, I was able to gain experience in many different types of work. This helped me to see what parts of working in a museum were the most enjoyable to me. But more importantly, this means that the staff pitches in to help one another. At a small museum, there is no real typical workday. Every day brings on a new challenge and a new opportunity to learn. We all do visitor services. We all work with school children. We all contribute to making our visitors experience at the museum the best it can be.

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Mallory creating some pottery during Family Days!

What is your favorite program/ craft to teach at Chucalissa? Any favorite projects? I’d have to say the Music Across Cultures program is great because everyone really gets into it. It’s nice to see kids getting excited about learning and really having fun. My favorite part of field trips overall is giving tours and taking the students outside to see the mounds. I love seeing that light bulb come on when they make a connection with the past.

I also enjoyed conducting focus groups with our various stakeholders on how to redesign our exhibit hall. The reason why I found this project so engaging was that the depth of knowledge our stakeholders had about the museum was amazing. Some of the people I interviewed have been around the museum for years (i.e. Ron Brister) and know so much about this place.

Have you been able to use your museum studies degree? Anthro degree? How? By getting my Masters in Applied Anthropology and the certificate in Museum Studies, I’m able to bridge two worlds and two career paths. My anthropology training in conducting surveys and focus groups has been useful in museum settings. Similarly, my certificate in museum studies allows museums to see that I have been trained in museum work. I also think that pairing the certificate with two years of experience at Chucalissa is invaluable in the job search.

What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened during your tenure at the museum? Wow. That’s a hard one. So many crazy things happen here at Chucalissa and in small museums in general. The first thing that comes to mind is the time after all the flooding occurred in 2011 and we thought we had found a baby alligator in the bushes. Turns out that we are the crazy ones.

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Atl Atl skills put to the test…….

In your humble opinion, who at the museum is the most skilled at throwing atl atls?  We will have to organize a competition to see! I’ll take on any challengers who think they can beat me!

Any future plans? Currently, I hold a part-time position at the Pink Palace in their education department. This job is great because I get to do something I really enjoy—teach. As for the future in the long term, I’m not really sure what my career in museums will hold. I enjoy teaching students and engaging with visitors. I also enjoy working with volunteers. At the Pink Palace, I’ve found a new love of teaching kids about science. But I’ll always enjoy getting kids to think about the past and history.

We will miss you Mallory!

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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