by Alexandra Rasic
As a seasoned, senior…OK…who am I kidding…old member of the paid staff at the Homestead Museum, I always appreciate learning about what newer staff members think about the experience of working at the Homestead. This week I sat down with Amanda Foster, our Collections Assistant, who has been a member of the paid staff for a little over a year to talk about the transition she made from being a volunteer to a member of the paid staff. Amanda started as a collections volunteer in 2015 as she was working on completing her bachelor’s degree in history from Cal State Fullerton. To clarify, “collections” does not mean that she collects money or repossess anything, it means that she helps care for the museum’s collection of over 30,000 artifacts. Pretty cool job, right?
To date, what has been your favorite project?
Working on the polar bear rug. I never realized how much work went into caring for him. I never expected that I’d be cleaning his fur with cotton balls and distilled water or soot sponges. There was one time we had to remove him from exhibit to have a claw fixed. We folded him up (he weighs in at about 100 pounds, but he seems heavier) and carried him upstairs, through Agnes’s bedroom windows to West Wing Storage. It was a process!
All paid staff members at the Homestead are involved in public programs. From our director to our operations assistant, everyone interacts with the public in some way, shape, or form. This was something new for you. How has interacting with the public impacted how you approach your work in collections?
I feel the need to get things right—for the museum and for visitors. I want to document things carefully in our collections database and make sure that I am giving visitors the right information. It does not just stop with the collection any more. I think a lot more about visitors now, and what I think they will like to see and learn about. For me, the best part of giving tours is taking visitors to La Casa Nueva. I love to open the front door and hear the shock and surprise of visitors who are so excited about what they see.
What have you learned about how the museum operates?
I feel like I have a much better sense of how museums function. There are distinct work groups that focus on the collection, programming, administration, and facilities. There are times we come together as a staff to work on a project or discuss an issue, and there are times we work more closely within our individual work groups. I like when we have opportunities to work together. I like hearing about what other people are doing.