Katelyn Trammell, 2019
Anthropology Collection/NAGPRA Assistant, University of Nebraska State Museum
I am the anthropology collection assistant at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. The State Museum is a natural history museum that includes zoology, paleontology, entomology, botany, parasitology, and of course -- my favorite -- anthropology! Quite frankly, I’m lucky enough to have my dream job. The anthropology collections consist of objects from all over the world, from Puebloan pottery to samurai armor, Papua New Guinea dance masks to World War I helmets.
Currently, my job mostly consists of assessing the collection’s needs. This includes rehousing objects, creating supports for fragile pottery, writing a proposal to replace some of our older cabinets, and preparing to move to a new database. But my work is not solely based in the collection. I also serve on the museum’s exhibition committee and have assisted in rewriting the museum’s mission statement. I have also had the pleasure of meeting the descendants of past donors and have enjoyed reuniting them with the objects they so fondly remember.
The other half of my job is to assist our NAGPRA coordinator in repatriation efforts. The museum has an incredible repatriation record, but there is still more work to be done. Although the NAGPRA process can be slow at times, I am learning more every day about the importance of this work.
My experience in the Museum Studies Program at KU and my internship at the Spencer Museum of Art prepared me perfectly for my position at the State Museum. At the Spencer, I learned how to work with, care for, and interpret cultural objects similar to those in the collection I now manage. Every day I find myself pulling on lessons from my various classes. My experiences in the exhibits course prepared me to serve on the exhibits committee; I have used my conservation textbook while freezer-treating incoming objects, and I am now running a budget using skills from the museum management class.
My advice for future students and graduates is to take a breath and not feel discouraged. The jobs are out there, and museums need people like you. Your classes are preparing you in ways that you could never expect, and you will definitely be able to do the work.