Tyson Robinson, 2007
Coordinator, Historical Unit, Mayo Clinic in Arizona
I’ve been working as the coordinator of the Historical Unit at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the last 10 years. You may wonder why a museum professional would work at a health care organization. That is, until you hear that Mayo Clinic encompasses several schools, libraries, historic buildings, a collection of artwork that rivals most museums, and a value system that has endured over 150 years. These values, which guide Mayo Clinic’s mission to this day, are an expression of the vision and intent of our founders, the original Mayo physicians and the Sisters of Saint Francis. They are also what enabled Mayo Clinic to grow from a small family practice in Rochester, Minnesota, into an organization with over 63,000 employees at campuses in Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona. Throughout this growth Mayo Clinic has always maintained its culture and traditions created by the Mayo Family. The Arizona Historical Unit was created in 2006 to interpret the institutional culture, and to collect and preserve the history in Arizona.
I took over the unit in 2007 during a major yearlong celebration. Additionally, I arrived to a newly formed archive and programs that were just past the idea phase. My role has become a combination of different museum positions and responsibilities. The first part of my role is to manage an archive with collections ranging from paper to multimedia. In this role I have transitioned the collection to new management software and moved to an environmentally controlled space. I support institutional anniversaries in addition to overseeing milestone celebrations for the Arizona campus (three to date). Activities for our milestone celebrations include historical displays, campus timelines, guest lectures, campus videos, and employee recognition gifts. A highlight for me was traveling with a specially designed mobile exhibit housed in a semi-trailer to San Diego, Kansas City, and New York City for Mayo Clinic’s 150th anniversary in 2014.
In between archiving and anniversaries I conduct oral histories, manage websites, bring in lecturers and maintain display cases. The unit also supports an annual week of events every October called Heritage Days. Each year Mayo creates a historic film and produces displays for each campus. In Arizona, I host a premiere with more than eight showings and host an ice cream social for over 6,000 individuals. I also manage a premedical scholars program with 50 undergraduate students from Arizona State University. The program includes lectures and medical skills labs throughout the school year and provides opportunities for the students to shadow Mayo physicians and allied health staff.
Outside of Mayo Clinic I am the president of the Central Arizona Museum Association (CAMA). CAMA maintains a website, hosts meetings and professional development events, and distributes a regularly updated brochure about member museums in the Phoenix area. I was also on the local host committee for the 2018 Annual Meeting & Museum Expo for American Alliance of Museums (AAM) in Phoenix. We planned several exciting events for the conference and were very enthusiastic to host the first AAM conference in Arizona.
My classes and experiences in the MUSE program at Kansas University provided the foundation for my career in the museum field and at Mayo Clinic. In each class I gained valuable knowledge that I utilize constantly, from archival skills to exhibition design to museum theory. My advice for future students and graduates is to be involved with as many events and opportunities as you can at Kansas. You never know when you might call upon these experiences in your future endeavors.