What are your job title and job responsibilities at the Aga Khan Museum?

My job title at the Aga Khan Museum is “Museum Educator”.  My role is to prep, and deliver educational programs for school groups.  As a Museum educator/part of the education team, we are also responsible for improvement of programs, creation of new/updated programs based on new exhibitions and to brainstorm possible ways we can tie certain programs in with the Ontario curriculum.

What is your educational background? When did you graduate from university?

I graduated from the University of Toronto in 2012.  I majored in history with a minor in religion and human geography

What other museums have you worked in?

I’ve worked for the Markham Museum as an educational program instructor as well as a curatorial assistant.  I have also worked for TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) as an exhibition facilitator.

How engaged are students when they visit the museum?

Generally students are quite engaged.  Level of involvement does vary between age groups.  A lot of times, it is up to us, the educators, to adapt to the different ages and try to engage them more.  In my experience, most students are very engaged/are very interested in the artifacts and also with the hands on workshops.  As the groups get older, for example a grade 10 class tends to be a little less responsive to questions and are less inclined to answer questions/give comments, however, they are still very interested in the museum and artifacts, they are just less verbal compared to say a grade 3 class.  

How do you prepare yourself for potential questions by visitors?

I make sure I do my homework.  We are given all information on artifacts and it is up to us to learn the material.  There are also tours that happen daily that we are more than welcome to take part in; when I was first hired, I would go on multiple tours just to hear different tour guides’ talk about the artifacts.  Obviously, we cannot know every little detail about every artifact, but we try our best.  I have learnt over the years from working at museums that it is perfectly okay to say “I don’t know” when a visitor asks a question.  When that happens, it causes me to be curious and want to find out the answer. 

What drew you to the study of history?

I have always been into history.  I see history as a mystery.  We look at evidence found from the past in attempt to figure out a story of what happened.  There is cause and effect, there is push and pull, there is human interaction, religions, which all comes together to paint a picture.  That has just always been so interesting to me.  History is much more than memorizing dates and remembering how to spell strange names.  Often times historians find new information/new evidence on something we have believed for years and suddenly what we thought we knew about a specific event and/or time period needs to be re-examined and that is so intriguing.

Do you have any advice for students wishing to pursue a career in the museum education field?

My advice for students pursuing this field is to make sure that this is something you really enjoy doing.  For me, if I didn’t work at a museum, I would be visiting one, so it works out that I get paid to be in one.  It is definitely not the easiest path because full time positions do not come easy in this field, however, it is very rewarding.  When a student completely understands what you are teaching them, or a visitor genuinely thanks you for expanding their knowledge or you end up teaching someone about a topic that they didn’t even know existed, there is nothing like it.

Editor’s Note: I had a wonderful tour of the museum from Casey Lee at the Aga Khan Museum in February, 2017.

Risa Gluskin

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